HC Deb 13 September 1956 vol 558 cc161-316

2.37 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the arbitrary action of the Egyptian Government in seizing control of the Suez Canal; endorses the proposals adopted by the 18 Powers at the London Conference which would ensure that an international waterway so essential to the economic life, standard of living and employment of this and other countries would not remain in the unrestricted control of any single Government ; welcomes the sustained and continuing efforts of Her Majesty's Government to achieve a peaceful settlement; and affirms its support for the statement of policy made by the Prime Minister to this House on 12th September. After listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), yesterday, I re-read the speech which he made to this House on 2nd August. The contrast between the two speeches was very great. His speech of 2nd August was a very different sort of speech from the one which he made yesterday. He then took exception to Colonel Nasser's action on three grounds. First, that the purported act of nationalisation had been carried out with regard to a Company which was not an ordinary Company conducting ordinary activities. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the ownership and control of that Company passing within the power of a single country. He rejected the assurances of Colonel Nasser that the 1888 Convention would be respected and he based himself for that part of his argument on the action of the Egyptian Government in regard to Israeli ships. That was his first point.

The right hon. Gentleman's second reason for taking strong exception to Colonel Nasser's action was the manner in which it had been carried out. It had been done, so the right hon. Gentleman said, without negotiation, without discussion, by force, and … on the excuse that this was the way to finance the Aswan Dam. The right hon. Gentleman's third reason was the political background, the repercussion of the whole of this episode in the Middle East. He said : We cannot forget that Colonel Nasser has repeatedly proclaimed his ambition to create an Egyptian empire from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. The French Prime Minister, M. Mollet, the other day quoted a speech of Colonel Nasser's and rightly said that it would remind us only of one thing—of the speeches of Hitler before the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1956; Vol. 557, c. 1620.] On the first of the right hon. Gentleman's points, the maintenance of this international highway, I should have thought there would be agreement everywhere that it is vital to Western Europe, but much more than that, that it is vital to the oil-producing countries themselves—[HON. MEMBERS : "No."] It is certainly important to them if their products are to reach their customers expeditiously and cheaply. It is vital to the countries of Asia if the manufactures and the machinery and plant of Western Europe are to reach them for their development by the cheapest route. This is a world interest. It is not a case just of the United Kingdom and France against Egypt, or of Europe against Asia. It is a truly international problem.

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's second point, I remind the House again of what he said about this operation having been carried out by force. On the third point, I refer to the words he used, which were that M. Mollet had rightly said that it reminded him of Hitler. The right hon. Gentleman himself referred later in his speech to Hitler and to Mussolini. If there is any question of building up Colonel Nasser by comparing him with those people the right hon. Gentleman cannot altogether escape responsibility.

In his emphasis upon these three points the value of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that he was speaking as Leader of the Opposition and, therefore, he was registering a degree of unity on this matter in this House. I do not believe that opinion in this country has altered upon these three points. I only wish that equal emphasis had been given to them in the speeches which came from the Opposition benches yesterday. That is the basis from which we begin. I still believe that the overwhelming majority of the people of the country uphold those three points.

Faced with that situation, the right hon. Gentleman, on 2nd August, suggested that we should take certain action. He said that there had been much talk about a conference and he hoped that it would take place. He said that he approved entirely of the idea of international control and indicated that he would like any control agency that was set up to be associated with the United Nations. He said that the first thing was to get the conference and to get a plan for international control and that it would be common sense to invite Egypt to the conference.

The right hon. Gentleman then stated that he believed that the economic measures taken by the Government were fully justified. He expressed the hope that investigations might take place on alternative routes round the Cape, in which I think the right hon. Gentleman is interested. Finally, he said that in his view we should be very careful what we said on the use of force. He said : It is unwise to discuss hypothetical situations in the present conditions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1956; Vol. 557, c. 1624.] He indicated—to be fair to the right hon. Gentleman—that we should only use force in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

In the light of those points, let us consider for a moment what the Government have done. First, with regard to the conference. Our first instinct on hearing of Colonel Nasser's action was to have immediate consultations with our French and American Allies and we agreed with them to summon a conference. There was no pressure upon us to do this; it was in our thoughts from the beginning and it had been already decided upon before the right hon. Gentleman made his speech. It had been decided to invite Egypt and the Soviet Union to that conference. I think that the membership of the conference was reasonable. After all, it is not a bad thing to discuss matters once in a while with the people who are primarily concerned.

The action taken was directly in accordance with Article 33 of the Charter. Russia and Egypt were both invited and it represented a genuine attempt to work out a reasonable basis for settlement. The Conference succeeded in arriving at an international plan to which 18 countries subscribed, representing about 90 per cent. or more of the user interest in the Canal. They arrived at a plan for its operation.

In that plan, or in any plan to deal with the operation of the Suez Canal, it seems to me that there had to be three ingredients. First—and I do not think that sufficient importance has been paid to this point—the organisation must give the employees, and particularly the foreign employees, who are essential for the operation of the Canal, sufficient confidence in the system under which they work. Secondly, such a system would be much better if it gave confidence to those who have to produce the capital which will be needed to an enormous extent if the Canal is to be maintained, increased and developed as it should be. Thirdly, the scheme has to have the confidence of the users.

It was made clear at the Conference, as had been in our minds from the beginning, that the international agency should have a relationship with the United Nations. I think that anybody who reads the statement of the plan in its final form will see the scrupulous regard that has been had for the susceptibilities and interests of Egypt. It is a very fair plan.

I would remind hon. and right hon. Members of what was said in the White Paper, referring to Mr. Menzies' mission. In page 10, that document says : There are in our proposals marked advantages for Egypt which we have discussed at length but which we now summarise as follows : —

  1. (a) Egypt's ownership of the Canal being recognised, it is to her great advantage to 165 have the Canal maintained and improved and made more profitable as the years go on.
  2. (b) The future financial burdens involved in such maintenance and improvement would be carried and handled by the new body and therefore, Egypt would in fact be relieved of them.
  3. (c) Egypt alone would draw profit from the Canal.
  4. (d) A just and fair method of compensating the shareholders of the Suez Canal would have been agreed upon.
  5. (e) The dangerous tension now existing internationally would be relaxed on terms satisfactory to the user nations and entirely consistent with Egypt's proper dignity, independence and ownership,"
This plan was put to the Egyptian Government with skill and patience by Mr. Menzies' mission and with complete unity on the part of his four colleagues. It was flatly rejected. I confess that I should have thought that the one thing which would have been done firmly and unequivocally from every quarter of the House was to express regret at that action of Colonel Nasser's and to emphasise how thereby he has weakened his international position.

It has been said that we should immediately refer this matter to the United Nations—"long ago", I think one hon. Member said. Let us consider for a moment what would have happened. At the London Conference the representative of the Soviet Union made it quite clear that he would not support our plan for international control. He sought at the Conference to assert a veto. He said that the Conference could come to no conclusion except on a basis of unanimity, but that view was not accepted and the 18-Power plan was produced. I must say that the Soviet representative did everything in his power to make it difficult for Egypt to accept the plan or even to negotiate within the framework of it.

What would have happened if we had gone to the Security Council and put the plan to it? It is obvious what would have happened ; there would have been a Soviet veto and no resolution at all would have been passed. What next? It may be said that we should then have called a special Assembly of the United Nations. What would have happened there? [HON. MEMBERS : "Ah."] I have some small experience of what happens there. I am dealing with a plan for an international agency, a plan of which the Front Bench of the Opposition have said they approved. We would have called a special Assembly of the United Nations. Whether or not, in the end, a two-thirds majority was obtained for any resolution, there would have been weeks of debate, innumerable amendments and, finally, at the most, a recommendation.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Let us get on with the war.

Mr. Lloyd

Instead of that we have made effort after effort to procure by peaceful means a satisfactory method of operating the Canal. So far as the United Nations is concerned, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has stated the position of the Government— that it may be necessary to go to the Security Council, and we shall go not as a formality but in a genuine effort to improve thereby the prospects of a peaceful settlement.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I have been trying very hard, and not un-sympathetically, to follow this argument. If going to the United Nations is such an entirely futile performance—and I tend to agree with that—why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that we may have to go there?

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. and learned Member has not followed me with his customary attention. I was dealing with the putting forward of this plan for an international agency, and with the point that we should, at the beginning, have gone to the United Nations—that that was the way to get a satisfactory solution. I was saying that if we had gone to the United Nations we should have had the Russian veto; and had we had a special Assembly I do not believe that the plan for an international agency would have emerged.

At all events, if it had emerged—and this is the plan which the right hon. Gentleman says is a good plan—it would have emerged only after weeks of debate and after innumerable amendments tending to whittle it down. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have their own recollection of what happened when these procedures were used in regard to Abadan. I say that even if the necessary majority had been prepared even for a recommendation, it would have taken infinitely longer than it took us at the meeting of the 22 Powers to get this international plan. [Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen should remember, also, that the General Assembly has power only to make a recommendation. The body which takes the executive action is the Security Council, and action on that body can, of course, be barred by the veto. I shall return a little later to deal with this Opposition Amendment.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)


Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was, I think, allowed to make his speech without any intervention.

There has been some criticism of the military precautions taken by Her Majesty's Government. I agree with what was said yesterday by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman). I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will have read what he said. He said that the Prime Minister would have been guilty of a grave dereliction of duty if he had failed to take the measures which he has taken. To quote the hon. Member : If there had been violence in the Middle East and he"— that is, the Prime Minister— had neglected to prepare the necessary forces to safeguard our proper interests he would rightly have been held guilty by Parliament and by the whole country of having failed to make provision for circumstances which might well have arisen, and which indeed may arise in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1956; Vol. 558, c. 109.] I think that that is a very fair statement of the position.

I want now to deal with the users' organisation. This was immediately denounced by the Leader of the Opposition as provocation. One would have thought that on a matter of this seriousness he would have at least taken a little time to consider it, to ask some questions, before doing his best to ruin the chances of this organisation, because, of course, the right hon. Gentleman having said that, it is very much more difficult for Colonel Nasser to accept it or discuss it.

I want to say a word or two to the House about the legal position of this users' organisation, because I think that there was some challenge as to its juridical basis. The 1888 Convention, together with the Company's concessions, constituted a balanced scheme. Egypt's position was covered by the Convention and by the fact that the Canal was within Egyptian territory and under Egyptian sovereignty. The position of the users, on the other hand, was safeguarded, partly by the Convention and partly by the fact that the Canal was operated by an international company whose operation of it formed part of the basis of the Convention.

The Egyptian Government, by destroying the balance of this scheme, by taking out the operation of the Canal by the international company, have removed one of the guarantees afforded under the Convention to the user interests. Egypt is not entitled to substitute herself for the Company as the operating authority. This is contrary to the scheme assumed by the Convention.

It is quite true that the user countries may not be able to prevent the Egyptian Government from purporting to nationalise the Company under Egyptian law or, indeed, to exclude it from seeking to carry out some of the operating activities, but the Egyptians, for their part, cannot require the users to recognise the validity of this state of affairs, or to recognise the Egyptian operation of the Canal in lieu of that of the Company. The user Powers retain their passage rights under the Convention and are not obliged to make use of, or to limit themselves to, the facilities provided by Egypt. That is the legal position and, therefore, I say that we are absolutely right to seek to form some sort of organisation of users. That is the first point.

Secondly, the skilled pilots and other expatriate employees of the Company will not work for the Egyptian Board, and there is, therefore, the risk of traffic breaking down. Therefore, it is right, I maintain, to try to keep them to work for an organisation which they are prepared to serve.

Thirdly, although the dues are to be paid to the organisation, Egypt will receive appropriate payment for the facilities made available. Of course, there are grave practical difficulties in carrying out the scheme—of course there are. But those practical difficulties are not of our seeking. [Interruption] We have not created the situation; the right hon. Gentleman referred to it in his speech of 2nd August. The scheme has full United States support and participation and the United States Secretary of State will be making a statement about that. To deal with the point raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), we propose to call a meeting of the main users in the very near future in order to get the plan working.

Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)

Do I understand from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman now says that he maintains that the users' association is perfectly lawful and entitled to be formed under the Convention even though Egypt is entitled to nationalise the Company? Secondly, how does he reconcile the juridical basis which he has just given with the provision in the Convention that the Convention shall continue even after the operation of the Canal, and the Suez Canal Company and its operations, have reverted to Egypt itself?

Mr. Lloyd

So far as the hon. and learned Gentleman's second point is concerned, the position which I am maintaining now is certainly valid up to 1968. As to what happens at the end of the period of the Concession, I agree with him that that might very well produce a different legal situation, because the concession was for a hundred years, and I say that until 1968 the international Company is an essential part of the operation of the Canal. Whatever Egypt may be able to do according to her domestic law with regard to a company which is registered in Egypt, she is in breach of international law in taking that Company out of an international obligation.

There have been complaints about the attitude and the action of the Company in respect of its pilots. The Leader of the Opposition inferred that there had been some sort of wrongful collusion between Her Majesty's Government and the Canal Company. I repeat that Her Majesty's Government have in no way sought to influence the pilots to leave. It is certainly true that we were aware of the Company's request to its employees to state whether they wished to maintain their contract of employment with their lawful employers or whether they wished to leave Egypt. I cannot see anything wrong in that.

But on two occasions we did intervene to keep the pilots in Egypt and at work, first, while the London Conference was taking place, and again when Mr. Menzies' mission was trying to secure Egyptian agreement at the conclusion of the Conference. But there really is a limit to what free men can be expected to undergo. So far as I know, these men are now working under martial law of another country.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

So are the soldiers.

Mr. Lloyd

How many expatriate soldiers are under martial law of our country? They are our own nationals. I am dealing with people who are not nationals of Egypt, but who are expatriates. I find it extraordinary that anyone should deny the right of these British citizens to withhold their labour, or complain because their employers propose to give them compensation for loss of employment.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)


Mr. Speaker

Order. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member is not entitled to remain on his feet.

Mr. Lloyd

The suggestion was made that the pilots were called out in order to make possible the formation of the users' association. I categorically deny that allegation. It was the likelihood that the pilots would not remain at work which was one of the reasons for seeking to set up the users' association.

The Leader of the Opposition and some of his right hon. Friends yesterday tabled an Amendment to the Government Motion which has now become an Amendment of censure upon the Government. I must confess that I think it is a somewhat extraordinary Amendment. It condemns the arbitrary methods employed by the Egyptian Government in respect of the Suez Canal Company … That condemnation is already contained in the Government Motion. It asserts a resolution to support the legitimate rights of the users of the Canal … That is precisely what we have been seeking to do. It is precisely what the course of action announced by the Prime Minister yesterday is designed to do—to support the legitimate rights of the users of the Canal.

The Amendment then deplores the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to invoke the authority of the United Nations over the dispute … It is not true that Her Majesty's Government have refused to invoke the authority of the United Nations. That is a wholly false charge. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear the position of the Government yesterday. We have been acting in accordance with Article 33 of the Charter from the outset. We have circulated to members of the Security Council a statement of the position and we have thus prepared the way for a reference to the Security Council, should this seem to be the right course, at any given time from now onwards.

How can this be termed a refusal to invoke the authority of the United Nations? Article 33 enjoins upon members to seek every means of settling their disputes and finding a solution among themselves before bringing their case to the United Nations. That is precisely what we are still trying to do. The London Conference and the Menzies mission were both designed to this end. Now we are setting up a users' association, which is a further attempt by peaceful means to get a satisfactory method of operating the Canal in accordance with the rights of the users, as I have already indicated.

The Opposition Amendment then calls upon Her Majesty's Government to refer the dispute immediately to the United Nations …

Apparently the Opposition hold the view that no further means of settlement now exist outside the United Nations. We do not agree. I have already dealt with the question of the procedures in the United Nations.

The rest of the Opposition Amendment calls upon the Government to declare that they will not use force except in conformity with our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, and to refrain meanwhile from … provocative action.

We have repeatedly said—and I said so in a broadcast which I made before the Conference—that we have acted, and we intend to act, in the spirit of the Charter of United Nations and in such a manner as to uphold the rule of law. We do not seek to provoke.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

What are the Government doing, then?

Mr. Lloyd

After the way in which this country, with our Allies and associates, have been so consistently provoked by the Government of Egypt and have met each provocation with new efforts at consultation and agreement, I find it amazing that hon. Members opposite should think it their duty to utter warnings to the Government to refrain from provocative action. I should have thought that that warning might really have been addressed to Cairo and not to Downing Street.

I know that there is a natural desire on the part of the Opposition to score off the Government of the day. It is part of our party system, in which we all believe. In the realm of foreign affairs, moreover, the Opposition, of whatever party, have an advantage over the Government of the day because the Government of the day cannot reveal the confidential negotiations and discussions which are taking place, and no wise Government would set out step by step and stage by stage exactly how they proposed to protect the interests of the country. To do that would be the negation of diplomacy and would make all negotiation quite futile.

My sorrow in this debate is that the Leader of the Opposition has yielded to the temptation of trying to use a grave international situation for party advantage. [HON. MEMBERS : "What about Abadan?"] If the position of this country has been weakened, that is what has weakened it. That process is carried a stage further by this Amendment, which goes out of its way to pick a quarrel and to divide Parliament and the nation. It is, as I have indicated, based on false suppositions and definite untruths, and I believe it mars what might have been a great Parliamentary occasion showing the strength and the resolution of our people. However, the responsibility is ours and we shall discharge it. We are not prepared to let unrestricted control of the operation of this Canal pass into the hands of one Government or of one man, and upon that issue we are not prepared to compromise.

3.11 p.m.

Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof : while condemning the arbitrary methods employed by the Egyptian Government in respect of the Suez Canal Company and resolved to support the legitimate rights of the users of the Canal, deplores the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to invoke the authority of the United Nations over the dispute, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to refer the dispute immediately to the United Nations, to declare that they will not use force except in conformity with our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and to refrain meanwhile from any form of provocative action. We have just been given a lecture by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs upon the functions of the Opposition in this House. I want to remind him and tell him quite plainly that it is also the function of the Opposition to try to restrain a foolish and strong-headed Government from taking this country into war—

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

Answer that one.

Mr. Robens

—and that we shall do. It is no use the right hon. and learned Gentleman talking about a grand Parliamentary occasion and wanting to use the Opposition to bolster up the Government's wild schemes when he should know, if he reads the newspapers at all, that over half of the nation is against the use of force.

We have read the declaration of the Trades Union Congress, which cannot be disregarded. The speeches were quite statesmanlike. The T.U.C., representing many millions of organised workers in this country, made its position plain. Its position is not in relation to the settlement of the Suez Canal problem on the basis of some form of international control ; it is that the use of force should be conditioned only by and on the authority of the United Nations, if force has to be used.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that when Mr. Menzies and his friends went to Cairo on behalf of the 18-Power Conference, Colonel Nasser turned down the plan flat; and he seemed to be surprised. What was he surprised about? Did he really think that, after the Prime Minister had gone on the world radio to insult Colonel Nasser three days before, Colonel Nasser was waiting in Cairo with a rubber stamp? The right hon. and learned Gentleman should realise that Britain is a great Power and Egypt is a very small nation, and that it is very easy to wield the big stick in relation to a small nation but that does not necessarily bring results.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman dealt at great length with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. As my right hon. Friend will be winding up tonight, he will be able to answer for himself. I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman only that there is nothing in the speech of my right hon. Friend on 2nd August in contradiction of what he said yesterday.

We have condemned time and time again the methods by which Colonel Nasser took this action. We do it in the Amendment which I now move. Of course, it was wrong for Colonel Nasser to take that action. No one justifies it at all. The problem that we have to face is how we can meet this new situation without recourse to war, and I understand that that is also the intention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and of the Prime Minister, although the events which have taken place and the Prime Minister's speech yesterday did, in my view, nothing to lift the shadow of war from the scene.

The words that he used yesterday—were they not provocative? What did he say when he told us rather skimpily about the canal users' association? Before any negotiations took place, before the proposals were put to the Egyptians, the Prime Minister in this House warns Egypt in advance that if they refuse to grant facilities which the canal users' association will demand, we—that is, the three Powers, Britain, America and France.—[An HON. MEMBER : "America?"]—Oh, yes, the right hon. Gentleman was ready to explain to us that America was in this—were free to take such further steps as might be required, either through the United Nations or by other means for the assertion of their rights.

What did the right hon. Gentleman mean? I can tell him what most people have interpreted that as meaning. It means the threat of force. If he has had an opportunity of looking at the tape this morning and seeing the reaction from countries throughout the world, not only from places like India and Ceylon but also Australia, he will see that they feel not only very doubtful about this scheme but very hurt at not knowing something about it before the Prime Minister announced it in the House. I myself, would have thought that if, indeed, this canal users' association is a good thing, it would have been sensible to put that proposal to the nations which met at the London Conference. Even Mr. John Foster Dulles is reported as having been annoyed at the disclosure, or method of presentation, by the Prime Minister, reflecting, as he is reported to have said, as though it were power politics. I do not think that the Prime Minister will find himself very popular in one or two quarters if this conference to which the Foreign Secretary has referred is called upon to deal with this new idea of a users' committee.

I do not understand what has changed the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, with a long and distinguished record in the political and diplomatic field, has, always been an upholder of the United Nations and of the old League of Nations—[HON. MEMBERS : "No."]— Oh yes, indeed he has, and he has paid great service and lip-service to the idea of collective security. In fact, as recently as 21st February, 1946, which is postwar [Laughter]—I want to differentiate between the old League of Nations and the United Nations—this is what he said in this House : We have all pledged ourselves to observe the Charter which we drew up at San Francisco. If we carry out that pledge, not only in the letter, which is always so capable of argument and interpretation this way and that, but in the spirit, then the nations can move forward to an era of prosperity greater than has ever been known."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1347.] Compare that with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon.

I wonder what it is that has changed the Prime Minister from that line which he has advocated for so long. The reason is, of course, that the Prime Minister's own personal position is at stake. When the troops left the Suez Canal, the rebel group in the Tory Party made its position very plain, and as soon as Nasser seized the Canal the rebels said to the Prime Minister, "We told you so". From that moment, he had to justify himself before his rebel group. In fact, there is not a Suez rebel group any longer in the Conservative Party ; they have all joined it, including the Prime Minister. He had to show himself as a resolute and a strong character.

Yesterday, he did not deny all that my right hon. Friend said about the use of force and the threats which had emanated from the Foreign Office and from 10, Downing Street. He went to great pains to justify his position by talking a great deal about appeasement, giving a warning that one must be firm with appeasers, because of the events of the 1930s. He compared the German scene with the Egyptian scene. It was not a real comparison, was it?

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, it was the Leader of the Opposition who first made the comparison.

Mr. Robens

But, of course, that is not a real comparison. The technique of Hitler is the technique of any dictator, large or small; but the comparison between Hitler and Nasser as such, or between Germany and Egypt, is obviously not a fair one. It was not at all the comparison my right hon. Friend made. The truth is that Hitler had broken international law on two occasions before he marched into the Rhineland. He had raised an air force and he had introduced conscription. There can be no comparison at all between the position of Germany at that time and Nasser's seizing of the Canal within Egyptian territory. All the Prime Minister did in talking in that fashion was done, of course, to build up Nasser and make him appear a very much more powerful man than he is.

The Prime Minister yesterday rather over-egged the pudding on this matter of appeasement. The truth is that he is out on a limb and he does not know how to get back. [Laughter.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are laughing now will, in a few months' time, be the first to push the right hon. Gentleman out of office.

Force in itself cannot possibly bring about the internationalising of the Suez Canal. It is quite impossible. Even if by force one were able to put back an international organisation to run the Canal, one could not at any time guarantee the things one would want—free use and so on—because free use of the Canal and its maintenance for international shipping must in any event depend upon the co-operation of the country through which the Canal passes. With modern techniques, commandos and all the rest, the Canal could be made unusable under any scheme which man cared to devise if in fact the Arabs decided the Canal was not to be used. The right hon. Gentleman must know that.

It is no use building up a situation in which going to war can be made easy. We talk about force and the threat of force. We do not use the ugly word "war", but when we talk about the threat of force, we mean going to war. Going to war over this case of the Suez Canal would not only weaken the Commonwealth—and I am referring not only to India and Ceylon but to Canada and Australia, who would have grave reservations about the use of force, according to the latest statements—but it would unite the whole of the Arab and Asian peoples against us, and this country would stand condemned at the bar of world opinion. Finally, going to war is not a permanent solution.

The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister told us something, not very much, about another new idea, a canal users' association. My right hon. Friend asked him what was the real intention of this organisation. I repeat the question. Is the operation of this new organisation intended to lead to negotiation, or will it turn out to be an act of great provocation?

If it is intended to force negotiations, I do not understand why it is formed ; negotiation could be conducted by reference to the United Nations. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong in thinking that the only thing the United Nations had to decide about was the plan agreed on by the 18 nations. The reference to the United Nations would be free of any plan which has been agreed upon. The United Nations would be free to discuss the matter and discover the best way of bringing about what everybody wants, without recourse to war. It is, therefore, no use the right hon. Gentleman hawking a particular plan around. There would, therefore, be no need for an organisation of this kind if it is intended to be used only as a source of negotiating power. The matter could go to the United Nations without it.

This organisation is much more likely to be provocative. What did the Prime Minister tell us about the canal users' association? He said it would employ pilots; it would undertake responsibility for the co-ordination of traffic ; it would receive the dues, and it would pay Egypt for the facilities afforded. It cannot do any single one of those things, with the exception of employing pilots, unless the Egyptians agree to its doing so.

It must be said to the credit of the right hon. Gentleman that he did concede at one point that the attitude of the Egyptian Government will have an important bearing on the capacity of the association to fulfil its function. Then he went on to say—and I repeat the words I quoted at beginning—that if the Egyptian Government should seek to interfere … or refuse to extend to it the essential minimum of co-operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1956 ; Vol. 558, c. 11.] the Government, and others, will be free to take such further steps, through the United Nations or by other means—[An HON. MEMBER : "What other means?"] The "other means" can only mean, of course, the use of force.

The Prime Minister


Mr. Robens

If the other means do not include the use of force, why has mobilisation gone on at the magnitude it has, to deal with a nation of about 20 million people, half of whom are illiterate? Does it really mean that a small nation, illiterate and poverty-ridden, is such a menace militarily that we have had to build up to the state we have done, and to put French troops into a British colony in Cyprus, if it is not the intention of the Government at some time to use force?

I warn the Prime Minister that any force used in relation to the settlement of this issue in Egypt will not be confined to Egypt. There will be repercussions all over the world. Already there has been a note in the Press from the Plantation Workers' Union in Ceylon. I do not know the size of that union or whether it has any influence, but I do know that if the plantation workers in Ceylon were to carry out the threat which has been reported today—that if action is taken in Egypt they will take action on British-owned rubber and tea plantations—that movement would rise wherever there are British interests in Asian countries. The right hon. Gentleman's friends laugh this off. They would not be laughing if this eventuality were to arise.

Any resort to force would put British interests in the whole of the Asian and Arab countries in jeopardy and would not guarantee anything about the free use of the Canal. I say again that international usage can be secured only if we can get Egypt to agree to a formula to settle the dispute. The use of force might easily overthrow Nasser. It would not destroy Arab nationalism and it would not destroy the rising feeling of people of this kind for independence and for freeing themselves from what they call imperialist domination. People on the other side of the House may laugh to hear those phrases but that feeling runs deep in Arab and Asian peoples and finds its expression in many actions which we do not like and for which we have to find the solution as between our two countries.

We can live only in a world in which nations of their own volition will cooperate and reach agreement and understanding. The Prime Minister has had long experience and has had many successes in peaceful negotiation. He has often told us that it requires patience. He should act now on the advice he has given to others. The Suez Canal problem cannot be settled by war. The final and lasting settlement can come only from a freely negotiated agreement.

If the plan which has been produced is really intended only as a method of seeking negotiation, or, in other words, an alternative to the 18-nation plan, there may be something in it—

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Robens

There may be something in it if it would mean the start of fresh negotiations, but in our view the right place for that is at the United Nations and not to continue with the idea that the great Powers can bludgeon Egypt into some sort of settlement, because I do not think they will succeed in that.

Are the differences between Egypt and ourselves negotiable? I believe that they are, because the Government, as have the 18 Powers, have already conceded that the right of Egypt to own the Canal is accepted. That was conceded in the Declaration made in the exchange between Mr. Menzies and Colonel Nasser. There is no disagreement on compensation. Nasser's declaration shows that he is prepared to agree to compensation. The 18-Power plan proposed that there should be compensation. On the principle of compensation, there is no difference. [An HON. MEMBER : "Where is the money coming from?"] We can go into that quite easily. We owe Egypt £120 million straight away, so we can deal with that problem as it arises. The truth is that there is no difference in principle either in connection with compensation or with the ownership of the Canal by Egypt.

The requirements of the maritime nations are uninterrupted use of the Canal without discrimination, fair tolls, the development of the Canal to meet future traffic and the technical efficiency of the Canal. The White Paper issued by the Government gives the statement made by Colonel Nasser. What did he say were the intentions and policy of his Government? … the policy of my Government"— he said— remains to be—

  1. (a) the freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and its secure use without discrimination"—
that is precisely what we asked for :
  1. "(b) the development of the Suez Canal to meet the future requirements of navigation"—
that is precisely what we asked for :
  1. "(c) the establishment of just and equitable tolls and charges"—
that is precisely what we asked for ; and :
  1. "(d) technical efficiency of the Suez Canal"
which is precisely what we have asked for.

Our apprehensions lie in our doubt as to the ability of the Egyptian Government to carry out the technical and administrative work involved. Secondly, there is apprehension or doubt that for political reasons the Egyptian Government would not carry out its obligations on non-discrimination and tolls. That is a fair statement of what is agreed and where the apprehensions arise.

The differences are so narrow as to the method by which we can ensure that these undertakings are carried out that if this matter were referred to the United Nations, who could set up an appropriate committee—[HON. MEMBERS : Oh."] It does not matter if it takes time. If a committee were set up to negotiate and to narrow this final difference, I do not believe it is beyond possibility that agreement could be found acceptable both to the users and to Colonel Nasser.

If it takes a long time to do that, we should encourage pilots to carry on with their jobs until the negotiations are over. I accept at once what the Foreign Secretary said, that no one has the right to keep a man at his job if he wishes to leave it. At the same time, it would be quite wrong if anyone were to offer financial inducements for men to leave their jobs to make it more difficult to negotiate. What I say, therefore, is that the differences now are so narrow that there should be reference to the United Nations. Take the issue out of the hands of power politics and put it into the hands of the United Nations. Let these discussions go on and encourage the pilots to keep the ships moving along the Canal. Even if it takes time, it is far better than going to war to enforce a solution which would be only temporary.

I see no reason why at the end of the day there should not again be a convention, not with a particular group of Powers but with the United Nations itself. There is no reason why we should not create some precedents if we are wanting to try to build up international law and order. If a convention that was agreed with the United Nations were broken, all the resources of the United Nations would be available to deal with such a breach. [Interruption.] Certainly, Remember that a breach of a United Nations convention would be a challenge to world authority, and no Government could successfully do that if the United Nations is to survive. If there were a convention with the United Nations and that convention were broken, it would mean the end of the United Nations.

Finally, this is not merely a dispute about Suez. It is to decide the kind of world in which we want to live, the world of law and order, or the world of the jungle ; a world in which the sovereign rights of nations are respected and in which sovereign countries are conscious of their responsibilities and obligations to one another, a world in which the rule of law takes the place of force. Britain today has a supreme opportunity, in this matter in which we are so deeply involved, to provide an example of moral leadership and wise statesmanship. To vote for the Amendment is to support sanity in world affairs. The Government's policy can lead only to conflict.

3.42 p.m.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

No one can regard the situation in this House today without profound anxiety and even distress. It is a tragedy that there should be this division of opinion, a division of opinion on party lines on an issue of this magnitude. I shall not willingly say one word to provoke any further recrimination. On the contrary, I want to see whether, even at this late hour, it is still possible for us to avoid, by our votes tonight, giving the appearance, not only to the country but, what is more important even than that, to the world, that this House and this country are split asunder on a matter of this kind. If we can do no more than reduce the number of those who really believe it right and their duty to vote against the Government on this matter we shall have achieved something at least in that direction.

I think we start with this fact, that no responsible Member of this House, no responsible organ of publicity in the country, has suggested that in no circumstances should force be used in relation to Egypt over this matter. There have, of course, been some who are against it in any event. I respect their views though I have always disagreed with them, but they do not command any large support in this House.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

It is growing.

Sir L. Heald

Therefore, we start with this, that we all agree that in some circumstances it may be necessary to resort to force. No Government, of course, could possibly pledge themselves against such a thing. They would be failing in their responsibility to the country. There again, I believe, all of us, with that exception—a perfectly honourable exception—of a few Members, are in agreement.

The question is : in what circumstances should force be used? In the first place that must, in any democratic country, be for the Government to decide. Of course, their view must be endorsed by Parliament, but it is the duty of the Government, and the Government alone, to decide, and the Government must be trusted to do what is right. [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] As a proposition, I believe that there is no responsible Member of Parliament who would differ in principle from what I have said. So far, we are in entire agreement.—[HON. MEMBERS : "NO."]—How then does the present situation in this House arise? It arises, I believe, largely if not mainly because a number of Opposition Members and a number of people in the country have a belief, which I believe to be a perfectly unjustified and wrong belief, that the Government intend to use force in violation of our international obligations. [Interruption.] If I may be allowed to develop my argument I should like to do so, and it will save time if I am allowed to do so without interruption.

There is, I believe, a great deal of uncertainty and some ignorance as to just what our international obligations are. Listening to some speeches in the House on these subjects one does rather wonder whether hon. Members have really considered what our position is, and therefore I believe that it will not be doing a disservice to the House if, very briefly, but I hope clearly, I indicate what precisely our international obligations are, because I myself am not prepared to support any action which would involve a breach of our international obligations, having myself had the honour of representing Her Majesty's Government as a delegate at the United Nations and having also represented Her Majesty's Government at the International Court at The Hague. Therefore, I think it is right for me to state in these circumstances what I understand our obligations to be and what I believe we are bound to do as a matter of law.

I start with Article 2 of the Charter, and will just read to the House two short paragraphs which state our fundamental obligations. The first, which is paragraph 3, is : All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. Paragraph 4 of Article 2 says : All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. That is the fundamental obligation which is undertaken by every member.

Under Article 33 there is the obligation in the first instance to do one's best to solve problems by negotiation. As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, that was the action which was taken in summoning the 22 nations. Perhaps I should read the article so that we may be quite clear. It states : The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation … That was undertaken with full agreement of all parties in the House and of all reasonable people in the London Conference.

What follows after that? Suppose that these efforts are not successful. Article 37 states : Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred to in Article 33"— and I think that everyone will agree that that is the nature of the present dispute— fail to settle it by the means indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the Security Council. Therefore, as I understand it, there is no doubt at all, under the Charter of the United Nations, that if the London Conference plan or the amended plan, as we now understand, is to be discussed by the same nations and if that fails to gain acceptance there is a clear obligation under Article 37 that—with one exception—before resort is had to force, the matter should be referred to the Security Council.

The exception is in Article 51, which reads as follows : Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security. I cannot believe that anyone could seriously argue that Article 51 would be complied with in a case where some requirement was insisted upon and resisted by another party. Therefore, I believe it to be the position that under our international obligation, if there was a refusal to comply with the request made to set up this organisation and to carry it into effect, we should be bound, before resorting to force, to refer the matter to the Security Council.

I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government has ever thought or suggested otherwise. [HON. MEMBERS : "Why not say so?"] Hon. Members ask, "Why not say so?" and that brings me to the point that I am making. I believe that if that is said a great deal of the steam will disappear. I find it most difficult to see why it is necessary for the Liberal Party to have placed on the Order Paper their Amendment to the Government Motion, which seeks to delete the words of the Motion after "any single Government", and to add but regrets that Her Majesty's Government did not issue a further invitation immediately to the 22 Governments who were invited to and attended the first conference so as to discuss with them what further steps be taken to ensure the future of the Suez Canal for world use, and failing any agreement by negotiation to refer the matter then to the United Nations in conformity with the United Nations Charter". The Liberal Party Amendment starts by regretting that the 22 member Governments are not being called together. We understand now that they are to be called together. Therefore, I think that we need not trouble about that part of the Amendment. As to the rest, the Amendment is simply on the very point that I have mentioned, which is that the matter, if agreement by negotiation is impossible, shall be referred to the United Nations in accordance with the Charter. I believe that that is the right thing to do and what the Government intend to do. If they do that, surely it would be a disastrous thing for us to have a vote.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is speaking for the Government, so far as I am concerned I should be perfectly satisfied that our Amendment would not be necessary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised an extremely important point. If this canal users' association, of which we have been told very little, is simply a further step by the 18 nations, and if it is to be rejected, and the matter is then to be taken to the United Nations, I entirely agree that our Amendment is unnecessary. But we have never been told that by the Government.

Sir L. Heald

Of course I cannot speak for anyone except myself, and I speak with no authority except that I happen to know that a person of vastly more authority in these matters than myself, namely, the President of the International Court of Justice, has said what I believe to agree precisely with what I have said.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)


Sir L. Heald

When the tumult has subsided I would rather continue myself. Let me make my position perfectly clear. The matter is not by any means ended when we arrive at the Security Council. In the House and in the country we must face sooner or later this position. At the present time there are no teeth in the United Nations Organisation. It may well be that a reference to the Security Council still leaves the great problem open. That is a matter which we must face and deal with, but that is no justification for breaking our own international obligations. If a reasonable and proper plan, supported by 18 or 12 nations or whatever the number may be, is put forward to the United Nations and approved there, then I personally will be perfectly willing to support the Government in any measure they then think it necessary to carry out.

Let there be no question of appeasement in this matter. I am not afraid of my own record in that matter, for I came into conflict with my own party in the years before the war and I spent four years in Army uniform in the First World War and six years in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. I do not want a third war, or I shall probably spend ten years in the Navy. There is no question of cowardice or appeasement in an attitude of that kind.

Let us suppose that the position which I have suggested arose. We should not have a great deal of opposition against us. We should have an enormous amount of support behind us, and I believe that we should have it in the House as well. What a fine thing it would be if, after all this heat has been generated, we should end with the position that we all agree that we will comply with our international obligations—[HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."]—but—and I hope hon. Members opposite will equally cheer this—that we will insist on Colonel Nasser complying with the reasonable views of 18 nations.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) has made a remarkable speech, and in view of his admirable attempt to try to achieve a greater degree of unity here, I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is now prepared to make a declaration that Her Majesty's Government will use force only in accordance with our obligations under the United Nations Charter?

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is to answer the debate, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has sufficient experience to know that these matters are much better not dealt with by question and answer. At the moment, we are seeking a settlement of this matter under Article 33. We intend to make every effort we can to obtain a peaceful solution under that Article. Only when we are satisfied that those efforts have failed does the question of a decision as to the next step arise.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This debate ought to proceed in an orderly fashion. It is concerned with very grave matters. Mr. Shinwell.

4.1 p.m.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) has, so it appears to me, created a quite new situation, of which no doubt the Government will take full cognisance. I note what the Foreign Secretary has just said, and I gather that at the close of the debate some reference will be made to the substance of that speech. It may be that in the course of my observations I shall myself make some reference to the point.

The Foreign Secretary, in a skilful Parliamentary performance, accused the Leader of the Opposition and the Members of the Labour Party of making political capital out of a grave situation. That was not only unworthy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman but, on his own showing, was contrary to the facts. After all, it was with almost hysterical exultation that the right hon. and learned Gentleman drew attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition on 2nd August, and indicated that he was in a substantial measure of agreement with the then Government policy. To some extent that was reiterated in the course of the debate yesterday.

The position of the Labour Party has been made abundantly clear. Generally speaking—indeed I think it could be said universally, so far as this side of the House is concerned—we condemned the action of Colonel Nasser because in our judgment it was arbitrary in character. Moreover, in our considered judgment, before Colonel Nasser decided to take the reins of Canal government out of the hands of the Suez Canal Company he might at any rate, apart from international law and as a matter of courtesy, have entered into negotiations with the Suez Canal Company and with some of the users of the Canal. But there was no consultation, and no effort was made to promote negotiations of any kind.

These are facts which are inescapable, and naturally the Government resented the action of Colonel Nasser—in our judgment quite rightly. My right hon. Friend said so on 2nd August. He said so yesterday. After all, it was not to the advantage of the users of the Canal. It could hardly be regarded as beneficial in the sphere of international relations. It could make no beneficial contribution to the people in the Middle East to undertake an arbitrary act of that character, completely ignoring every other consideration. Therefore we condemned it. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman is hardly on safe ground in accusing us of making political capital out of this affair when, in fact, we were in cordial agreement with the Government on 2nd August.

So far as I can recall, no exception was taken to the decision of the Government to convene the 22-nation committee, which subsequently became the 18-nation committee. Nor was exception taken to the action of Colonel Nasser in nationalising the Canal. And, by the way, that decision was endorsed by the 18-nation committee, so far as I can gather.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

indicated dissent.

Mr. Shinwell

If it was not endorsed, it was not objected to.

Mr. Lloyd

I must correct the right hon. Gentleman because that is really not the position. Representative after representative said that he did not accept that the action was lawful; nevertheless, it having happened, we had better see whether any plan could be constructed for the future. But its illegality was strongly maintained.

Mr. Shinwell

There is not a great deal between us on this issue—[An HON. MEMBER : "Ah."]—Well, that is how it appears to me, but to the experienced Parliamentarian on the other side of the House, who has just interjected, it might appear quite different. It was regarded as a fait accompli and therefore inevitable in the circumstances. Its legality has not been questioned. That we can understand.

Over and above that, on what almost appears to be the primary cause of division, namely, the decision of the Government to undertake precautions of a military character, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, on 2nd August, and also in the course of his speech yesterday, agreed that it was natural that a Government, within their discretion and responsibility, should act in that fashion.

Let it not be forgotten that there was an occasion when a Labour Government had to undertake precautionary measures, which were not taken exception to by any member of the Labour Party nor by my colleagues in the Labour Cabinet. These matters are not in dispute. They cause no division, and no capital of a political character is being made by the Labour Party out of those issues.

But there we part company. After all, why should we not part company, even on a matter of international relations, and on foreign affairs? Are we to act as a kind of rubber stamp for the Government? That could hardly be expected of us. This is a free democracy. We are men and women of independent character, apart from an occasional use of the Whip. [Laughter.] Therefore, we are entitled to express our opinions. It occurs to me that although it is true that there have been interjections from this side of the House, some of them sound, some of them substantial, some a little foolish, some unnecessary, I can recall some nasty things that were said on the other side of the House. I want to say this : that if ever we should be embroiled in war, and God forbid that we should, however capable the Government may be, or think they are, they have to rely on the support of the Opposition—

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And of the workers.

Mr. Shinwell

They cannot conduct a war without a united nation. Therefore, there is no advantage in being nasty and malicious towards us simply because we express opinions in which we happen sincerely to believe.

As I say, there we part company. What was the precise point at which we separated? No exception was taken to the convening of the meeting of the 18 nations, the discussions and the decision to send the Menzies mission to Cairo to discuss these matters with Colonel Nasser, though it did not really come within the category of negotiations ; those matters merely being presented on a plate to Colonel Nasser.

Then the Menzies mission returned. One would have thought—to me, this is a matter of bewilderment—that the Government's first act would have been to reconvene the meeting of the 18 nations, present those nations with a report on what had transpired, and again ask their consent to further action if it was regarded as necessary. It may well be that the 18 nations could have devised some scheme. It may be that they might have proposed a compromise with Colonel Nasser. I am not saying that they would have done so, but they might well have done so. They might very well have proposed that the matter should be referred to the Security Council. But they were never given the opportunity. That was a profound error of judgment. It created a false impression in the country.

Moreover, on this matter of military precautions—I am bound to say this—some of my hon. Friends have taken the view that in no circumstances should force be used. I think I heard one of my hon. Friends say yesterday that we should use force only in self-defence. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who comes from the docks, that that sort of technique would never go down with the dockers. My experience as a seamen's organiser was that it was essential to anticipate moves now and again and act expeditiously ; otherwise I might not have been here at all, and that would have been a great disadvantage for the House. It is sometimes necessary to take action, having responsibly invoked all the resources available. It is not a question of whether one should use force, because all Governments have to act in circumstances thrown up by events not within their own control.

The position as I see it is as follows. Like other hon. Members, I have an ear to the ground. I read the newspapers, such as they are, and I hear what people say. The real danger is that there has been created in the country an impression —I do not say that it is valid; I do not go so far as saying it is completely justified—that the Government intend, in certain circumstances and without obtaining the consent of the Security Council or the Assembly of the United Nations, to go to war. This country does not want another war. I do not believe—I hope that my hon. Friends will not pounce upon me because of what I now say ; I say it sincerely—that the Government want another war.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

They do.

Mr. Shinwell

My hon. Friend says "They do," but I should not come to such a firm judgment. I do not believe that the Government want another war. If they do they are insane, and I do not believe they have reached that point yet, although I sometimes think that they are not very far from it.

The refusal of the Government to refer the matter to the Security Council is based, according to the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, upon the belief of the right hon. and learned Gentleman— perhaps it is a conviction—that if it had been referred to the Security Council there would have been trouble with the Russians through the veto, to begin with, and, in any event, if the matter had been referred to the Assembly, all it could have done was to make a recommendation, and that would take weeks and weeks. In fact, according to the Foreign Secretary, neither the Security Council nor the Assembly is of any value at all.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I have followed the right hon. Gentleman's argument with interest, and so far he has put matters very fairly, but he is not fair in that last remark. The whole of my point was that Article 33 is more likely to produce results if we make use of it first.

Mr. Shinwell

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman refuses to accept my argument, what can I do? I will say no more about it, but I still believe that my argument has some validity.

To proceed to a further point, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that that is not the real trouble. He says that we might try other expedients before we go to the Security Council and, if need be, to the Assembly. Then, what are we trying out? That is the whole point. If we were trying out some sound scheme without complications, something that everyone could understand, something not likely to give rise to more difficulties than there are at present, it would be a different matter.

What are the new methods? There is the canal users' association, which was pitchforked into the debate yesterday, and about which none of us knew anything. It was a new device. Where it came from we are not quite sure. I suspect that it came from the United States. I know that this may be disagreeable to a lot of people, but I cannot help saying, because I believe it, that I am very suspicious of United States diplomacy in the Middle East. I am not against Anglo-American co-operation, but I do not want to see our great country, for which I have an undying affection, made a pawn in American diplomacy. This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. It began at Abadan with Mr. Magee.

We made an effort to promote international understanding about oil resources. Perhaps I might tell the House about something with which I had some connection when I was Minister of Fuel and Power. I do not like to talk too much about that—[Laughter.]—but this is in a different context from that imagined by hon. Members. It may be that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—we are always glad to see him here beaming and smiling and wishing he could get up and go for us— will recall the circumstances in which Lord Beaverbrook was sent to the United States to negotiate an oil agreement with the American Government. He failed. When the Labour Government came into office I was asked to undertake the task. I did not fail; but then that is natural.

We entered into negotiations with the late Mr. Harold Ickes, who was the Secretary of the Interior, and he brought with him not only his oil officials but a group of independent Texan oil producers. Such a collection of "gangsters" had never been seen. This, of course, is not an attack on the American Government.

In spite of it all, we got an agreement, and the substance was that we should promote an international organisation to deal with the production and distribution of oil resources throughout the world, making no exceptions. We did not require to ratify it. It was not necessary, because it had been accepted by the Government. The American Government never ratified it. If it had been ratified and if an international organisation had been created, it might have helped to clear away some of the muddle, some of the controversy and some of the conflict that surround this question of the production of oil and the use of oil resources in the Middle East and elsewhere.

I suspect that there are elements in the United States which would like to clear us out of the Middle East, so far as oil is concerned, and I do not like that. It may be that occasionally they do not mind embroiling us in little bits of trouble, when it suits their book. I hope that I am wrong; perhaps I am too suspicious, but somehow or other, I think all this links up with this decision to create a canal users' association. Then, having agreed to it, Mr. Dulles seems to be quite miserable about it. He is not quite sure whether it was wise. Perhaps we shall learn later in the day, as the result of his Press conference, whether he is in favour of proceeding with the users' association, and, secondly, whether he is prepared to back it up in the event of difficulties emerging.

The Foreign Secretary, who with his legalistic mind and logical style of expression can state a case clearly, unlike those of us who have had no training of that kind, sought to clarify this issue concerning this users' association. I am bound to say that I was more confused than ever after listening to him. What was it all about? Let me take one point that occurred to me. I noted a number of them, but I will deal with one.

We decided, through the Suez Canal Company, but perhaps with some inspiration by us, that the pilots should withdraw, but now we are to set up a users' association and we are to use some of these pilots in order to take ships through the Canal. But we have said—at least, I think it was the Prime Minister who said it—that the reason why the pilots want to go is because of uncertainty. There is an awful lot of uncertainty for the pilots in the new scheme. There does not seem to be any question of superannuation.

There are a great many points about this; I will deal with another that occurs to me. In spite of all that has been said about Colonel Nasser—and I dislike him, not because he is a dictator; we have so many in the world still, and sometimes a democratic Prime Minister can be dictatorial, as one knows, though I am not here speaking of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—after all, so far as I can ascertain, Nasser never did decide to impede facilities for the use of the Canal. All ships were still to pass through the Canal. Then why the need for this users' association? It would have been a different matter if Nasser had used his power in order to prevent ships passing through the Canal, but so far he has not done it, except in the case of Israeli ships, and I shall say something about that in a moment. We must not forget these matters.

So far, there has been no impediment in the use of the Canal by Nasser's decision on nationalisation and his refusal to accept internationalisation. Therefore, there does not seem to be any reason why this new association should have been promoted at all. Some have said that it is provocative. I do not believe that it is so much provocative as stupid. I do not think that anything will come of it, but maybe I am wrong, and I shall be ready to apologise if I am proved wrong.

It may be that Colonel Nasser will be inspired to agree to negotiations and will come to a more reasonable frame of mind. It may be, but I doubt it, and I think that some new idea will have to be devised. If there is to be a new idea devised, it may as well be done, to begin with, either through the 18-nation committee, which ought to be convened at once, or alternatively by referring the matter to the Security Council.

Let me now say a word on this matter of the United Nations. I said a moment or two ago that it seemed to me to be valueless, in the light of what the Foreign Secretary had said. For many months, I have said that there was not very much in it, and somebody else has said that there were no teeth in it. The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) said that there were neither teeth nor tail, but perhaps there is more tail than teeth.

The fact of the matter is that, if the Prime Minister, who in difficult circumstances in a national emergency we are bound to wish well, and we cannot help doing that because we love our country, had come to the House yesterday and said that it is an accord with our international obligations that this matter should be referred to the United Nations, the right hon. Gentleman would have captured the imagination of the House. Even if the United Nations, as a concept, is difficult, and if it means shilly-shallying and dilly-dallying and all the rest, I think that would be better. Let us try the users' scheme for a day or two, and if it does not work, then take the matter to the United Nations. Let us take a chance. If we say that the Canal should be internationalised, there is no reason why we should not take an international issue to an international organisation.

Now, I want to leave that point, because other hon. Members will have a lot to say about these matters, and there are two further points that I want to make. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary did not tell us this afternoon about arms for Egypt. What a glorious opportunity it was for him to do so. [HON. MEMBERS : "Israel."] No, arms for Egypt.

For a long time, we have been asking the right hon. and learned Gentleman questions about the export of arms to Egypt, about Centurion tanks for Egypt. What a calamity, what a disaster it would be, and what an unflattering commentary on the Government's professions if war should occur between this country and Egypt, and Centurion tanks and other weapons were used against our boys. I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would reply to me, as he frequently has done when I have asked him for details—not precise details, but a general idea—about the export of arms to Egypt, by saying to me, "You refused to give the information when you were Minister of Defence", though in a quite different situation. That is not good enough, but there it is.

By the way, what about Jordan? How long are we going on paying millions of pounds in subventions for Jordan, a country that can no longer be trusted so far as our interests are concerned? How long are we to do that? Does anybody think that this is a contribution to the promotion of British interests in the Middle East or elsewhere?

Finally, what about Israel? If this matter should go to the United Nations some day, or if we are able to negotiate with Colonel Nasser and come to a reasonable compromise, do we clearly understand that the shipping of every nation will be allowed to pass through the Canal and that no impediment will be placed in the way of Israeli shipping? Why should the Israelis be made the outcasts? Indeed, it may be asked why did the Government never take appropriate action to deal with that situation?

May I say to the Prime Minister that, in this Middle East situation, it is not merely a question of Egyptian intransigence with which we are concerned in relation to the Canal, but a question of what Egypt may do in implementing its threat against the State of Israel. Anything can happen. What should we do? Shall we invoke the Tripartite Declaration? If we do, what will be the effect on Egypt, on Iraq, on Jordan and the other Arab countries? These matters have to be thought out. We are entitled to know where the Government stand in relation, not merely to one part of the Middle East, but to the whole of the Middle East. Anyway, there I will leave the matter.

I believe that my party has a sound case, not because of the Government's rejection of Nasser's attitude, not because of his arbitrary action, not because of taking precautions of a military character, not because of convening the 18-nation committee and the like. All those things we accept. The Government stand condemned because the one thing that they ought to have done in all the circumstances which would have satisfied the public sentiment was now to say, "We will take it to the United Nations". If it is thought by some people that to do that now would seem like weakening, would seem almost like humiliation, I do not so regard it. It would be a greater humiliation to find this new users' association scheme break down and fail to reach a compromise about the Canal.

That is the position of the Labour Party. For that we need not apologise. In a situation of this kind we have sometimes to clear party views out of the way. That is true of both sides when it comes to a national emergency, or when one is apprehended. It is essential and indeed inevitable, but in view of the Government's attitude my party is justified in its condemnation and in asking the House to accept the Opposition Amendment.

4.33 p.m.

Mr. C. E. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)

The tone of the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), made with the authority of an ex-Minister of Defence, was rather different from the tone of the speech of the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). When my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary opened the debate this afternoon, he very properly drew attention to the very different tone of the speeches made by hon. Members of the party opposite yesterday and today with that of the speeches made earlier in August when this crisis first burst upon us, just before the House rose for the Summer Recess. Indeed, when the right hon. Member for Blyth moved the Amendment on behalf of the Opposition I began to wonder whether at one stage he had forgotten the first sentence which reads : … while condemning the arbitrary methods employed by the Egyptian Government in respect of the Suez Canal Company … He was so vehement in his denunciation of Her Majesty's Government that it seemed that it was Her Majesty's Government and not Colonel Nasser who had forceably seized the offices of the Suez Canal Company.

At the beginning of August, with very few exceptions, the House was united in its determination that Colonel Nasser should not be allowed to retain sole control of this vital waterway. If I were Colonel Nasser, I should in no way be discouraged—and I am sorry to say this of the right hon. Member—by the tone of the speech of the right hon. Member for Blyth. Still less would I be discouraged by the tone of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.

I should have thought that on this issue it would be agreed that the matter goes to the very root of all international relations, because the real issue is whether any agreement or treaty is worth anything at all. If it is not, then of course, as hon. Members have said, we are back in the days of international anarchy. Let us look at Colonel Nasser's record. Almost exactly two years ago, in October, 1954, we made an Agreement with Colonel Nasser under which we withdrew British troops from the Canal Zone. At that time that Agreement was hailed by him as opening a completely new era of Anglo-Egyptian relations. A new era would dawn and the last remaining point of conflict would be swept away. There were assurances in that Agreement about freedom of passage through the Canal, and so on.

Hardly had the ink dried on the document than we had abuse heaped on our heads. Britain was vilified in the Egyptian Press and radio to an almost unprecedented extent, even in this propaganda age. Even hon. Members—presumably of all parties—were flooded with propaganda leaflets emanating from Cairo. I had some myself and I expect that most hon. Members had them. They were sent by air mail. The technique is very familiar. Just as the Soviet Union always attempts to drive a wedge between us and the United States, so at least one of these incredible pamphlets in a very clumsy way attempts to drive a wedge between us and the French.

The one which amused me most was addressed "To All Britons." I do not know whether hon. Members have seen this. Addressed : To All Britons who believe in international co-operation … the pamphlet says : War is a terrible thing. We all agree with that. The pamphlet adds : It is even more terrible when it is fought for a senseless purpose like the internationalisation of the Suez Canal. I always used to think—it was always held to be the case in the old days—that it was nationalism which was the threat to peace. Now apparently we have moved out of that phase and the real threat to peace, according to this incredibly funny leaflet, is internationalism.

We fulfilled our part of the bargain in the 1954 Treaty and we did better than the timetable. We kept both the letter and the spirit of the 1954 Agreement with Colonel Nasser. The last British soldier left the Suez base about a week before the actual time laid down in the original Agreement. In spite of this we have not only been abused, but last July we had the forcible seizure of the Canal Company's offices.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) tried to argue last night that Colonel Nasser's action in respect of the Suez Canal Company's offices and employees did not really constitute aggression. It is quite true that no shots were fired, for the simple reason that the Canal Company's employees were not armed and were not expecting shots to be fired, but it is a curious and rather narrow interpretation of aggression to say that before an act of aggression takes place shots have to be fired and somebody has to be killed. There are all sorts of other forms of aggression, just as dangerous as that of the use of armed force. I would have thought that Colonel Nasser's action in seizing the Canal Company's offices and threatening its employees constituted a quite obvious act of aggression.

Anyway, what is quite clear is that the pledges made by Colonel Nasser in 1954 bear no relation to his actions in 1956— and there is no reason to assume that any pledges he may make in 1956, either about the passage of ships through the Canal or in connection with any form of international control of the Canal, will bear any relation to what he may do either later this year, in 1957, or in any other year.

If the Suez Canal is not a vital international waterway, it is not anything at all. Unless it is an international waterway, through which the ships of all nations pass, it is of no use to Egypt or anybody else. It is in fact, to a very substantial degree, the lifeline of our country, of a large part of Europe and also of much of Asia. We really cannot leave this vital lifeline in control of one man, even if it were the Archangel Gabriel, let alone Colonel Nasser. If we leave Colonel Nasser in undisputed control of the operation of the Canal we are mortgaging our standard of living, the maintenance of full employment, and the whole future of our economy, into the hands of one man.

That obviously cannot be allowed, but if nothing more than pious hopes are expressed ; if there is nothing more than the raising of hands in horror, or the passing of resolutions which are quite ineffective, it makes absolute nonsense of any form of international law and order. It also does something else—and this at least should interest hon. and right hon. Members opposite. It makes complete nonsense of any attempt to develop the under-developed countries of the world. What Government or company will sink capital, provide plant or send their technicians to the under-developed countries of the Middle East or anywhere else if the general pattern of subsequent behaviour is to follow that set by Colonel Nasser in the seizure of the Canal? Of course no Government and no company will do so.

I should have thought that this was an issue about which any good internationalist would agree. I should have thought that all good Socialists—and, of course, all hon. Members opposite are good Socialists, apart from all the good Liberals, who are good internationalists, too—would be united about it. Apparently that is not so. From the various arguments of hon. Members opposite, be they Liberals or Socialists, it is obvious that they are not at all agreed that it is necessary to enforce international control.

Some say, "Well, why worry about the Suez Canal? Let Nasser have it; it is Egyptian anyway." That argument has been advanced not only by hon. Members opposite but by the Left-wing Press. "Let him have it," was the argument used about Hitler. It was said, "Let him have the Rhine; it is German. Let him have Austria; it is German-speaking. Let him have the Sudetenland ; the majority of the people"— so it was alleged—"want to join Germany."

Mr. J. Hynd

Who said that?

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

It was said by hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS : "Nonsense."] A large section of the party opposite, who took the view that it was not worth worrying about Hitler marching into the Rhineland, have, in retrospect, cashed in on the delightful phrase "collective security," which, in their minds, is a kind of general anaesthetic. I am all for collective security, provided that it is properly interpreted, but too many of the party opposite mean by "collective security" that someone other than themselves might provide the security. So long as no one is prepared to provide it, collective security becomes collective insecurity, and we know what the end of that is.

I am not against taking this issue to the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations, neither is the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister. At no stage in this story have we done anything whatever outside the spirit or the letter of the Charter of the United Nations. All we have done is to get a plan agreed by 18 out of 22 nations, which represents over 90 per cent., within a time limit which certainly could not have been achieved with the cumbrous machinery of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

We must face facts. It is no good burying our heads in the sand about the United Nations. The difficulty about it is that because of the operation of the veto the machinery for enforcing action by international authority is completely stultified.

Mr. Harold Davies

We were quick enough in Korea.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

I am glad that the hon. Member made that interjection, because that was what I was going to deal with. Why did it work quickly in that case? It was for the simple reason that it so happened that on one particular morning the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council. Therefore, there was unanimity and no veto. I would ask the hon. Member this question : suppose that on that particular morning the Soviet Union had not boycotted the Security Council, and suppose that the veto had been applied. I wonder whether the party opposite would have been quite so keen to send troops to prove that aggression did not pay in Southern Korea? In that case action was taken because the Americans took the lead. It is a very partinent question what the Labour Government would have done had there been no unanimous resolution.

Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)

The hon. Member will be aware that it was precisely on account of the misgivings which he has expressed that, immediately afterwards, at the following meeting of the General Assembly, steps were taken to enable the General Assembly to act, not quite in the same way as the Security Council, but when there is strong moral authority.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

After action.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

The General Assembly can give strong moral authority to a number of sovereign States, but unless these sovereign States are prepared to take action there is no action at all. We have therefore to be careful that when we talk about collective security we mean collective security and not collective insecurity.

I have another example. Let us take the case of the Berlin airlift. I agree that it is not a complete analogy—

Mr. S. Silverman

It is a very bad one.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

—but there was a threat of aggression at the time of the blockade of Berlin and hon. Members opposite, when they sat on these benches, very properly dealt with that threat in an expeditious way, and I gave them wholehearted support. They stepped up the rate of airlift, by I forget how many flights a day, in order to feed Berlin. There was a danger that one or two planes would be shot at; in fact, I think they were, but the step-up of the Berlin airlift went on for three months before hon. Members opposite made any reference whatsoever to the Security Council.

I am not blaming them for that. They took matters into their own hands in order to deal with an emergency in the most expeditious way and at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Callaghan

We were not proposing to commit aggression, and this Government is.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

The Leader of the Opposition criticised the Government very much yesterday for what he called "sabrerattling", by the assembling of troops. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite say "Hear, hear". Do not they think that, if it is necessary, the Government should take certain steps to protect the lives of British nationals?

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe


I think that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who does not agree with me, was Civil Lord or Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty—I am not sure which— at the time of the Abadan crisis. What happened then? There was a clear threat to British nationals living in Persia. What did the party opposite do then when they were in power? They sent out there two destroyer flotillas and a biggish cruiser— I forget its tonnage—and I think about four fighter squadrons. I was in Shaiba at the time and I remember seeing these forces very well. Was not that done in order to protect the lives of a large number of British nationals?

Mr. Callaghan

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me, as he has referred to me. Is not he aware that the indictment against the Government at present is that they have allowed the impression to grow uncorrected that it is they who intend to launch the aggression, and no assurances that we have—[HON. MEMBERS : "You have said that."] Obviously hon. Gentlemen opposite do not read their own Press if they really believe that this has been confined to us. This impression has grown, and it should have been removed both by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary, but neither has done so. So long as that impression remains, many of us will believe that the Government intend provoking an issue in which they could justifiably pretend to use force.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

Nobody would have thought that the assembly of troops to protect British nationals was sabrerattling, had it not been for the fact that the Opposition seized on that for their own rather petty party gain and to suit their own needs.

Mr. Healey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way to me now?

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

Of course it is right and of course Her Majesty's Government are trying by every possible means to get a peaceful settlement and of course they will go on doing so.

Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)

They have not even negotiated yet.

Mr. Mott-Radclyffe

But all these efforts, including reference to the United Nations, and so on, may conceivably be unsuccessful. If that be the case, we shall reach a stage in which we have to recognise, as a world Power, in company with other nations who are world Powers and whose economies are threatened, that there are certain vital issues which cannot be ignored. When and if that crucial point be reached, it is for hon. Members opposite to make up their minds whether or not to back the Government and uphold international law by taking action, or whether they propose to run away with their tails between their legs and tear up all the speeches they have made about appeasement.

Mr. Callaghan

That is the typical voice of the Tory Party.

4.53 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) has left the Chamber, because I want to pay a tribute to his courageous, frank and lucid speech. Being party politicians, we all know how difficult it is for individual Members of Parliament to go against the current of the party stream. This afternoon, the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us what I am bound to say was an authoritative legal opinion, because he has been a prominent Law Officer of the Crown. By doing so he has turned this debate into something entirely different from what it was when it started, or at any rate when it started today.

I have not the slightest doubt that when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition makes the winding-up speech for this side of the House, and when the Prime Minister replies, as I understand he will, both of them will take cognisance of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey. I should have thought that the Prime Minister could not let such a powerful speech from one of his own prominent back benchers go unanswered. I shall have something to say later about the effect which it might have on hon. Members on both sides of the House—or, at any rate, on hon. Members on this side —were the Prime Minister to endorse the views expressed by his supporter.

During the 21 years that I have been an hon. Member of this House I have seldom known a debate change its course so positively as has happened this afternoon, following the independent speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman for Chertsey, and I can do no less, therefore, than congratulate him; although perhaps congratulations from this side of the House may not be something which he would desire. Right hon. and hon. Members will know that I have myself spoken independently and given my own views in the past, and what I am saying today about the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey is my sincere opinion.

I regret that the Foreign Secretary should have used this occasion to attack the Opposition, or, at least, to attack my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in the way he did. The right hon. and learned Gentleman reduced the whole debate to a sordid party squabble, which it really is not. If ever there was an occasion—as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)—when Her Majesty's Government should ask for the co-operation and support of Her Majesty's Opposition, this is such an occasion. Such co-operation was apparent during the war, when hon. Members on both sides of the House recognised the issue. Let right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite be under no illusion about the fact that we recognise as well as they do what is the real issue today. I venture to suggest that the real issue has not so far been mentioned, and I hope to mention it in my speech.

It would be distorting the whole perspective if we tried to relate Nasser too closely to Hitler. The circumstances of the pre-war period, which I remember so well, were entirely different from the present circumstances. Hitler was quite a different "cup of tea" from Nasser. Hitler knew what he wanted and went straight for it without any divergence whatever. But it seems to me that Nasser does not come from the same breed.

Nevertheless, Nasser is showing many of the characteristics displayed by Hitler before the war. He has not yet assumed the proportions which Hitler reached by 1939. But do not let us forget that Hitler had to make a start somewhere, and that is precisely what Nasser is doing. He is made of the same material. He is a revolutionary. He has secured his position by revolution. He makes similar inflammatory speeches, full of hatred, and no man can call himself the leader of a nation or a statesman if he is always exuding hatred, instead of trying to suggest positive measures for the betterment of his people.

Nasser might well look to his own country. He has told us that 80 per cent. of his own people are on the verge of, or actually in, poverty-stricken conditions. I should have thought that in such circumstances a real statesman and a leader of his country would have welcomed the co-operation of the Western democracies in trying to introduce better conditions, both industrial and agricultural, in that country so that he might alleviate the lives of those miserable people the fellaheen of Egypt.

We should consider how King Farouk was overthrown, and his corrupt system may have necessitated revoluntary action. But although Nasser, or, rather, Neguib, started off with the good will of many people of different nations, what has Nasser done? Whatever may be the outcome of this dispute, Nasser has reduced his country to a condition which may not mean only the overthrow of Nasser himself, but may produce a revolutionary condition in the country which will not benefit the Egyptians.

That, I maintain, is the background of this debate. I remember it being said so often in this House before the war— I am not going to identify those who said it, although some of them are still here and they are not on this side—that it was no concern of ours how dictators governed their countries. Before the war many shut their eyes to Hitler's "mobocracy" or Goering's genial rascality. What was the result? We were led straight and inevitably into war. It behoves those who take part in the debate not to mince their words either about Nasser or our own Government. We are here for that purpose, either to support the Government or to oppose the Government, and in the Amendment we have put on the Order Paper we are expressing our disapproval of the ineptness of the Government in their diplomatic handling of this issue.

We do not deny for one moment all the evils that can be attributed to Nasser— they are many—but what we say is that we as a nation cannot alter that situation by "going it alone". That is the reason we have included in our Amendment the proposition that the Government should get this matter before the United Nations. I well understand, indeed I sympathise with, the Foreign Secretary. He has had so much experience in United Nations conferences of the stonewalling, the discourtesy, the rudeness of the Russians, who hold the record for the number of occasions on which they have used the veto.

The United Nations Charter was never conceived for those circumstances, otherwise I doubt very much whether the veto would have been included. Nevertheless, the Charter is there; the United Nations organisation is there. We are members of it. We subscribed to the Charter. Who are we, of all nations, to run out on the code of rules which we helped to formulate? It seemed to me that that was what the Foreign Secretary was suggesting this afternoon when he tried to find excuses for the Government not taking this matter in the first place to the Security Council.

I have not the slightest doubt that the Foreign Secretary is right and that Russia would use her veto. Very vell, but what is the Foreign Secretary saying as a lawyer? He is saying, "I will not present my case to the court because I do not believe that the court will do me justice." If he and the Government believe that, the United Kingdom should resign its membership of the United Nations and try to formulate a better system ; but so long as we subscribe to that institution I maintain—so far as I understood the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey also maintained—we should stand by its principles and operate them. That is the real difference between the Government and the Opposition this afternoon.

There are only one or two features of the dispute which I want to outline. Although my hopes may be falsified, I hope that the Prime Minister may be able to say something towards the end of the debate which might mean that no Motion or Amendment need be involved and put to the House. I am one, especially on foreign affairs issues like this, who believes that there should not be these clear divisions between the Government and the Opposition. If we should come to war, as has been suggested by many who have spoken before me, it would be inconceivable that the Government could carry on a war with half the nation—the Opposition represent half and perhaps a little more than half the nation—even under localised conditions in Egypt, without the support of Her Majesty's Opposition.

I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will convey to the Prime Minister the views which have been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton and in what I am saying, which I also hope that the Leader of the Opposition will say in winding up the debate. We dare not use issues like this merely for party gain or advantage. If hon. Members opposite think that there is any political advantage to be made out of it by the Opposition they are making a profound mistake. Many members of my party bitterly resent the actions of Nasser and fear the unemployment which might come to this country if Nasser prevented the proper using of the Canal. Under proper conditions those hon. Members would support any action, provided it were legal, to stop any dictator from taking steps like that.

I agree with what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon on the question of pilots. The pilots are British and French; I speak only for the British. They are free men, the same as we are. They have the same rights as any British trade unionist. They have the right to withhold their labour if they feel so disposed. I do not know how far the action of the Suez Canal Company has induced the pilots to reach a decision which, I understand, has now been reached, by which they want to leave Egypt or not to serve under Nasser. I do not know; I suspect that the Suez Canal Company, by way of financial inducement and other methods, did a great deal to make up the minds of perhaps some of those pilots who were wavering. I am certain that the pilots had every reason to doubt the word of Nasser, because already Egypt is in default with many British citizens, especially teachers, who have been denied their proper pension rights by that dictator.

Therefore, I say that the pilots are entirely right if they doubt Nasser's intentions. Indeed, they have written cause for it. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) has referred to some of the paper propaganda which has been flooding to Members of Parliament from Egypt. Among that lot of paper— most of which went straight into my wastepaper basket—was a very illuminating document giving details of the nationalisation law. What did Articles 4 and 5 of that law say? The Foreign Secretary was quite right this afternoon when he said that these pilots are operating under martial law. They were threatened—not only they, but others, also—with imprisonment if they dared to leave their posts under the new nationalised institution. I am sure that not one of my hon. Friends could subscribe to that. It is something which, if it happened in this country concerning British trade unionists, would cause a riot.

I say that the pilots have every reason to fear their future under Nasser and that if they want to leave that boss they should be entitled to do so. They should be entitled to be remunerated or recompensed by way of pensions for which they have worked. In that connection, I would only say that if the Government are prepared to take this issue to the United Nations I hope that they would do their best to induce the pilots to carry on in their jobs and not to work under the new organisation which has been mentioned. I ask that if they take that step the Government should give the pilots an absolute guarantee, so far as they are able, that their lives and property will be sacrosanct and that their pension rights, to which they are entitled, will be recognised by the Government, even if they are not recognised by Egypt, as they ought to be.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Much has been said in this debate about the pilots being at liberty to leave their employment. Does not my right hon. Friend think that the soldiers who object to being sent to Suez are also at liberty to refuse to go?

Mr. Bellenger

My hon. Friend knows the answer which I could give to that question, but I will not waste my time in answering a question which is not at all relevant to the issues which I have raised. I am sorry to appear discourteous to my hon. Friend, but I do not think he resents that. He and I understand each other, and we will leave the matter there.

Turning to the question of the Government's military precautions, I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said on 2nd August. In his speech yesterday I do not think that he attempted to run away from what he said then. I was here, sitting immediately behind him, and as far as I was able to tell, he acquiesced in what he had said on 2nd August. The only divergence concerns the proper use of force. That is the only divergence as far as I can see.

If the Government had taken precautions, as they should have done and as a Labour Government would have had to do in similar circumstances, and left it at that, there would not have been the criticism of the Government which we are making today. As my right hon. Friend said, the whole criticism turns on what the Government have done in addition to taking reasonable precautions.

I do not want to give Nasser any more ammunition which he can fire back at us, but I say to Her Majesty's Government that they have indeed rattled the sabre ; and, that being so, the Opposition cannot support them in that action.

I said earlier that we understand the issues. I hope we all do. The real issues concern not only Nasser's attempt to nationalise the Canal. Nasser has been supported all along by Russia, and Russia's policy today is no different from her policy under the Czars. The imperial policy of the Czars is today reproduced in the Communist Kremlin. What is it? In the Middle East it is to deny Britain a waterway to the remainder of the Southern Hemisphere and to deny Britain access to the oil deposits in those countries on which we so much depend for our industrial and military potential. That is probably the reason that Russia has backed Egypt in her obstinacy. I do not know. Probably the Government know more about it and why Nasser has not so far been prepared to negotiate.

These are the real issues, and many of us in the Opposition understand them only too well. Let hon. Members opposite understand this, too : we do not burke those issues. All we say is that these are not days when Britain alone, or with France or even with America, can go into wars with solid world opinion or substantial world opinion against them, because once war is enjoined we do not know where it will stop.

In view of what I have said so far, I regret having to say this, but looking back at the Government's record in foreign affairs it seems to me that their diplomacy has been without direction, hesitant and sometimes very changeable. I hope that the Government will change their mind to-night, because if they do it will be in the direction I want; but so often the Government, by their hesitant policy, have created such situations as have arisen today.

Of course, we do not know how far those two traitors, Burgess and Maclean, have assisted. The Government may say what they like, but I believe that some of these malevolent but clever people are at work guiding Moscow, as they have been over Cairo, in their actions against this Government.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Are they advising the Prime Minister?

Mr. Bellenger

I hope that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity of putting that point to the House. We shall all listen to him with great respect and interest.

I wonder, as did my right hon. Friend, the Member for Easington, how far our United States ally will stick with us. I do not think I have ever said anything which can be interpreted as being anti-American. I may not be pro-American, but I am not anti-American. They were our allies in the war and they are our allies now. But I am bound to say that their foreign policy and diplomacy have sometimes been very embarrassing for this country. Sometimes they have blown hot and cold, like a woman's hair dryer. We do not know whether the hair will be dry or left in the same humid condition.

Some of us who have held Government office in these circumstances know how difficult it has been sometimes to get our American allies to march in step. I believe that it would not be at all harmful to our relations with them for us to say in this Parliament, in the friendliest possible way of criticism, that we expect America to support us as we supported America.

Mr. S. Silverman

In doing what?

Mr. Bellenger

In pursuing a foreign policy which I hope my hon. Friend supported when a Labour Government were in office, even if he does not support the foreign policy of the present Government.

If the latest idea of a users' association has come from America, I hope that the Americans will understand what it may possibly mean and I hope that they are prepared to go all the way with us. I have said that we cannot "go it alone", but I hope that the Americans are prepared to understand that they have to "go it" with us, otherwise, I am afraid, the pillars of Western Union, Western defence, Western understanding and the democratic way of life will be endangered. That will do only the Communists good, and certainly not ourselves.

In the absence of a Government statement which will convince the Opposition that the Government consider that the exposition by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey was right, I shall, of course, go into the Lobby to support the Amendment. The Government will no doubt get their majority, but I do not think that that will be the end of the affair. A bitter taste has been left in the mouths of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in the Opposition and confusion and consternation has been left in the minds of many loyal people in this country. I suspect that there are some hon. Members opposite who understand this. Let them urge their own Government to take steps to reassure us tonight—steps which may result in the Motion and the Amendment not being put to the test.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)

I think the right hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) is misinformed about some topics—I should have thought, for instance, about women. I should not have thought that it was their hair dryers which blow hot and cold.

In general, the trend of his remarks makes it easier for me to do my best to resist the temptation with which I started to say some things which might be thought unnecessarily quarrelsome. No doubt I shall say one or two things which will be thought controversial, but I will do my best to keep them to a minimum and I will resist the temptation to say some things which might be thought really quarrelsome.

Mr. Healey

Be yourself.

Mr. Pickthorn

In these matters of war or peace, or the potentiality of war or peace round a neighbouring corner, it is always difficult to draw the line between properly saying what one thinks in such a way as to try to get the minimum of disagreement from all of one's countrymen and the point at which it becomes necessary to say even what one may think is evil about those of one's countrymen with whom one does not agree. I am inclined to think that this is one of those days when we should all try to be moderate, so I am going to try to be moderate.

The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw —my neighbour, if I may say so—who has just addressed us, referred to the paper propaganda which has been reaching this country, and if the House will forgive me I want to begin by reading a few extracts from the last bit to arrive. I think it is the last bit because it was handed to me only twenty minutes ago. I think this is the up-to-date view of Colonel Nasser's intentions. There is a list of his major projects, and there are various of them with which I will not trouble the House. Then he comes to what I suppose he considers the most important of the lot, the major project for oil. Formation of an Egyptian-controlled pan-Arab marketing organisation to ensure that all Middle Eastern oil is used for the benefit of Egypt and the Arab countries. While Egypt's enemies will thus be deprived of oil, Arab countries enjoying the goodwill of Egypt will have their supplies assured. Since most of the Middle East oil already goes through the Suez Canal, Egypt is the natural centre for the future pan-Arab marketing association. I leave out some more and come to the second half of the next paragraph which says : Owing to the strategic position of the Suez Canal, other Arab oil-producing countries will find it advantageous to join the pan-Arab marketing organisation while Egyptians, by virtue of their control of the Canal, their unrivalled commercial experience and their exclusive access to Soviet-bloc supplies (equipment, tanks, tankers, pipelines, etc.) will undertake the building and management of the new base. The final paragraph states : This pan-Arab marketing organisation will make the Arabs masters of their oil, and so on.

I quote this leaflet, which I think is the latest information, by way of endorsing the last, or almost the last, remarks of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw when he spoke of what are the realities of this matter with regard to the competitiveness of power politics, and there is no other sort. I know that today we all have to talk about people's democracies and we shall have to talk some day soon about pacific peace. But politics are something which involves power, and I quote that leaflet, which I think is the last declaration of Nasser's intentions to reach this country, by way of endorsing what the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw said about what is the big reality in the strict sense of politics in this matter in the Middle East.

I beg right hon. and hon. Members not to think that any amount of victory, of scoring for their party in this country or even for their way of looking at the universe all over the world could compete with that; I beg them to pause, I do not say on moral grounds, but upon the risk they may be taking even with opinion in this country if they judge of what are the real politics of the Middle East and the Canal without anything in their heads but the reality of politics.

I want to say one or two things about the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, I do not complain of his not being here. There is no reason in the world why he should be here to listen to me, but I am sorry that he is not here. I know that when people say that they are thought to be reproaching somebody, but I am not really reproaching the right hon. Gentleman. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday and I read it again today. I am not now giving the impression made by my reading of the speech, though I think it was identical with the impression I gained by listening to it. I am giving the impression of my hearing. Here we make speeches to be heard ; we do not write to be read.

It is an accident that this happened to be a two-day debate, so the speech could be read, but it is an impression left on a candid and not unintelligent hearer of what was said. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."] I say "not unintelligent" and that is reasonably modest : I do not think that hon. Members opposite ought to try to take any prep school advantage of that. Hon. Members cannot with any intellectual honesty assert that any of them who listened to the speech made yesterday and who listened to the speech made on 2nd August were not struck by the very remarkable difference. I am not referring to any of them who dictated either of the two speeches or who compared the printed versions of the speeches. What I am saying is that there is no one of intellectual honesty on the other side who heard the two speeches who was not struck by that very remarkable difference. A lot of water has passed over the dam since then. [HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."] It was not only the force of gravity that pushed some of the water. A lot of water has passed over it. The impression left on my mind the first time was that the right hon. Gentleman thought, as we all did, that this was a horrible mess. He thought that, on the whole, what the Government were doing was right enough. The impression I got on the second occasion was that really he had to find some way of quarrelling with the Government. [HON. MEMBERS : "Oh."] Certainly. I am telling hon. Members as honestly as I can the impression I got.

It really boils down to three things upon which the right hon. Gentleman disagreed with the Government. One of them was that the Government ought to say that it would not use force except with United Nations approval. I find it difficult to be sure that the one thing one must do in this situation when we know that the United Nations approval is subject either to veto or to inordinate delay is to say one will not use force except with United Nations approval.

The second cause of quarrel was that the matter of nationalisation of the Canal should go to The Hague. I could say a lot about nationalisation, and inter-nationalisation, but I want to stick to the point that matters—why was it that the matter ought to go to The Hague? I am not a lawyer, but I am credibly informed that The Hague has not got jurisdiction. The strong probability is that The Hague has no jurisdiction and I am again credibly informed that, whether or not it has jurisdiction, it quite certainly has no power of enforcement. So what is the use of that?

Mr. Healey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way for a moment?

Mr. Pickthorn

I am sorry, but I really cannot give way.

Mr. Healey

The hon. Gentleman made an incorrect statement.

Mr. Pickthorn

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to correct it. I am no Nina Ponomareva in a police court being cross-examined. I am, hon. Members will do me the justice of admitting, generally good enough at giving way whatever may be said about me in other respects. I am now trying to make a not very easy speech, which is a debating speech and which has in no way been prepared, with almost no notes. If I sit down I shall get into a muddle, I fear. [Laughter.] I hope some hon. Gentlemen opposite who are laughing may one day get out of their muddle.

The third thing which the Leader of the Opposition found to argue about yesterday was the military precautions. Here I am bound to say that it becomes difficult for persons of my prejudices and experience to speak—[HON. MEMBERS : "Hear, hear."]—I am conscious of my prejudices. If everyone were conscious of his prejudices it would make argument easier—on this matter. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday permitted himself a great deal of use of evidence which could not be adduced for cross-examination. In such a matter as this I find that conduct a little difficult to forgive. There was a great deal of allusion and of "What I feel sure happened this way," "What I know happened that way," and so on. That is no way to argue a matter of this sort. Where there is no evidence it is much better not to make assertions or innuendos.

I come back to what after that matter of politics and the relation of the Canal to oil, and so on, I come to what after that is the main matter, to that borderland where there is morals or politics, or both. What has been the gravamen of the charge against our side from most of the speakers, and almost all of the back-bench speakers, of the Opposition? The ground of this quarrel with us is whether the use of force must never happen and is always wrong except in the two proper cases of the positive authorisation of the United Nations or in self-defence and resistance to the use of force. I think I understood the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who is occupying the foreign affairs front, so to speak, for the Opposition, and other hon. Gentlemen opposite, all to be agreed on that point.

Many appeals have been made to this side that we should not want to use force and that we should stop the Government from using force by snowing we are all against using force. I could quite understand that appeal if the same argument were put to our enemies. Was it the use of force or was it not when Colonel Nasser used armed soldiers or police to take over papers, machinery, premises, persons, administrators, officials, and so on? If everybody on the other side who keeps on telling us that the use of force is always wrong would begin by saying, "We will not admit Colonel Nasser into the court of world opinion so long as he is enjoying that successful use of force", the rest of the Opposition's case would be formidable. Until that is said the Opposition's case is not formidable at all.

There is one other thing I ought to say as a matter of candour. It is always difficult for me to take part in debates on the Middle East. Older Members may remember but I have spoken little lately on this or indeed any other topic, so many will not remember that I always believed that political Zionism was a mistake and was wrong. [Laughter.] I see nothing derisory about that. Almost all the debates on this subject are carried on upon the assumption that the one thing that must not happen is the use of force against the Zionist State. It is not fair to make that assumption without candidly admitting that in the eyes of any Arab that was an extreme case of colonialism and imperialism. It was the forcing upon a long-settled society, partly by force and partly, I feel bound to say, by fraud, of persons from outside who were bound to disturb that society and bound to create there a festering sore which has gone on pouring out human misery ever since, as we all know it has.

It makes it awfully difficult both to think straight and to seem to ourselves and to others to think straight about this matter, if one has prejudices opposite to the normal ones on the subject. I think it was the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who begged us to see ourselves and the world through foreign eyes sometimes. Hon. Gentlemen must not take for granted too easily the assumptions about Israeli ships. I cannot speak as a lawyer but I feel some sympathy with Egypt about the Israeli ships. Law must have some relation to the way in which real people behave, and it is a little much to ask people to guarantee free passage through the Canal for the benefit of a country with which they think and say they are at war. I do not know the answer : I fully admit that the establishment of the Zionist State in the Middle East makes it impossible to say clearly, "This is the right thing" or "That is the wrong thing to do".

On this matter of the Canal I cannot doubt that we are now in a position of defence. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen will forgive me a moment of personal reminiscence. I am almost the first man in my family for 250 years who has been able, I do not say to earn, but to get, a living in this country. All the others have had to do it by going overseas or by spending their time at sea. Those whom I knew, in the last generation or two, would have hardly believed that the British House of Commons would speak as though Britain's frontiers were only Britain's shores. They would say that the British House of Commons must be aware that arbitrary interference with international highways puts us into a state of self-defence. They would not believe it possible that any other view could be held. The frontiers of our country, which can feed only half its people, are not only the three-mile limit. We have to make sure that men and goods can pass freely on their lawful occasions. I beg hon. and right hon. Members opposite to think it possible that even some of their supporters of whom they feel most sure may also at some hours take this same view.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

I think that there is, at any rate, one criterion which we might all apply to our speeches in this debate today. It is, quite simply, that it is not ruled out by the Prime Minister that this country may use military force before the House meets again. Certainly, therefore, every hon. Member opposite ought, when speaking, to attempt to try to explain why he thinks that that is justified, so that his constituents may read and understand it. I have been a Member of this House for only six years, but I have never been more glad to be a Member than I am today, and I feel a compelling obligation to explain to the people who sent me here what are my views on this subject. It is only in that spirit that I make the remarks about the situation that I do.

Let me say, first, that I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who said that the former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), had completely changed the course of this debate. Indeed, I am told that Mr. Dulles now has a statement on the tape in which he says that he will not use force to go through with the users' association. This debate, therefore, changes its course as it proceeds and, indeed, in a sense, it is not the vote tonight that is important so much as the answer which we must get from the Prime Minister to the question put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.

At the same time, it is worth looking back at the justification of their position which the Government now present to us. I want to say, quite frankly, that I have never believed for a moment that the nationalisation issue and the so-called illegality of nationalisation was the point on which the Government were basing themselves at all. The International Court is there to decide these matters. It is no good saying, as the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) has said, that the Court might decide that it had no jurisdiction. If the Court decided that it had no jurisdiction that would be a judgment for Egypt. That is why the Government do not take it to the International Court; because they are frightened that the Court will come out and say that this is an Egyptian matter.

Then we come to the question of the pilots. We ask the Government, "Why did you pull the pilots out?" and they say, "We did not pull the pilots out—the Company did." The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot, at one moment, have it that the Company is a great international authority, responsible to world opinion and, at the next, a private company conducting its own contracts with the pilots in the operation of the international waterway.

Then we are told that it is an act of aggression. I ask the Government "Can it possibly be an act of aggression to anticipate something that would be lawful in twelve years' time?" I put it as a very serious consideration that if the Government are basing themselves upon the Convention of 1888 they have themselves had to admit that the users' association will disappear, or is likely to disappear, in 1968. No; I believe what the Foreign Secretary said in his broadcast to the nation in August, that we must look at "the substance and not at the technicalities." It is to the substance we should look when we consider the situation in the Middle East.

What is the first complaint against Colonel Nasser? It is that he dreams of empire. The party opposite objecting to dreams of empire! What about Cecil Rhodes who dreamed of controlling Africa from the Cape to Cairo? What about Disraeli? What about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who sits there? He dreams of empire in the books he writes of our glorious past. It is we, on this side, who object to dreams of empire, because we think in terms of free association and we believe that the empire that was built up was based on force and domination by this country. Therefore, let criticism of Colonel Nasser come from this side and not from the empire builders opposite.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke


Mr. Benn

I shall be dealing with the noble Lord in a moment. I am glad that he is here.

Then we come to the character of Colonel Nasser. When the Foreign Secretary made his broadcast, what did he do? He went through all the things that Colonel Nasser had done. First, he said that Colonel Nasser has abolished the monarchy. To people who read only the Daily Sketch, the monarchy is just all the things we think of in our own Royal family, but there is really very little sense in asking us to withdraw our Amendment in favour of King Farouk.

The truth of the matter is that if the Government do go to war—and, of course, they do not want war ; no burglar wants to hit one on the head if one is ready to give him what he wants without his doing so—it will be a preventive war to prevent Colonel Nasser doing what he has in mind; and I shall come back to Colonel Nasser's intentions in the Middle East in a moment. As far as the illegality of nationalisation is concerned, the Government have not a case, and they know that they have not a case.

Now we come to what the Foreign Secretary did when Colonel Nasser's act of nationalisation was promulgated. First, he summoned a conference to decide the future of the Canal. That Conference was a packed jury of the users of the Canal—as they are called, but actually they are only the countries whose ships use the Canal. The fact is that the goods of many other countries go in those ships, so one cannot see how the interests of the Canal were those only of the nations summoned to the Conference.

When we come to the international plan, to internationalisation, we come to the ludicrous position of hon. Gentlemen opposite being in favour of internationalisation. May I ask any hon. Gentleman opposite today whether he would favour colonial development on the basis of the London plan for the Suez Canal? There is not a single Conservative who believes that colonial development should be run without profit, and although I have many criticisms of the London plan it is a plan that gives no profits on the operation of the Canal.

We, on this side, are the people who believe in internationalisation ; we are the ones who today stand in favour of the use of the world's resources for the benefit of the people—and we are told that the Conservatives, who built an international capital enterprise, would take the country to the brink of war in favour of a nonprofit making scheme. If it were not tragic, it would be enough to make us, on this side, sick with laughter.

The truth is that internationalisation makes sense only if it is done by consent. Internationalisation, like pacifism, involves an attitude of mind. It is not something that can be imposed on anybody, and neither I nor any of my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that we can impose internationalisation on Colonel Nasser. Suppose that we tried to do it, and said, "We take the Canal; we take this strip of water and make it international." The first thing that happens, according to the Prime Minister, is that we need a new and bigger Canal. Where do we get the land for the new Canal? We have not got it—we have only internationalised the existing one. We then have to go to Colonel Nasser and say, "Give us a bit more sand. We want another Canal." No—internationalisation cannot be imposed, and that is the bitter fact which the Government cannot face, and that is why they are building up this hysteria over the present situation.

Next we are told that the Canal is vital to the economic interests of the country. I do not deny that international trade is the basis of our life, but let us take the subject of the dues. I am told that if Colonel Nasser quadrupled the dues it would mean merely an extra 1d. a gallon on petrol; but if I accept the estimate given in another speech yesterday, and say that it would mean an extra 5d. a gallon, well, we ourselves have a tax of 2s. a gallon on petrol. We say that oil is too cheap for the British consumer and use the tax to finance our ordinary domestic expenditure. What right has a rich country like this to use the low price of oil and its transport to finance our own expenditure, for whatever purpose? I say that we have no right, and no right to impose it.

The real question is whether or not Colonel Nasser would leave the Canal open, and I am content to rest my case on what the Secretary of State for War said in the debate on the Suez Canal Base Agreement in 1954. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was then talking about the danger of the Canal being closed, and the Secretary of State for War said : I do not see the slightest reason why the Egyptian Government should close the Suez Canal, because it is as much a life-line to them as to anyone else."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 760.] We are not relying on promises—those are the words of the Secretary of State for War, the man who is now moving the troops of this country in defiance of his own prophecy. He did not rely on a promise by Colonel Nasser. Neither do I. He relied on the hard economic facts of the situation that Nasser needs the Canal, that Egypt is a poor country with only two assets—a river and a Canal— and that she wants the profits from the Canal to help her to use the river. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the manner of nationalisation, in terms of the needs of the Egyptian people the Aswan Dam is absolutely vital.

After all, we have debated this matter today as if Egypt came onto the map about the year 1954. But the history of Egypt goes back a very long way. I will not weary the House with the history of the Pharoahs, but I will take the House back to 1882, when a British Government —and it was a Liberal Government—sent troops into Egypt to pay the foreign bondholders because of the bankruptcy of the Egyptian Government. They used the revenues of Egypt to pay the private capitalists. Is it any wonder that international control and management stinks in the nostrils of the Egyptian people today?

We said that Egyptian sovereignty would always be recognised. We said that when we set King Fuad on the throne after the First World War. We said it in the 1936 Treaty. Sovereignty means that one is free not to enter into international control of one's own resources, although everyone here earnestly wishes that sovereign States will get together. But if the Government want to be taken seriously on the question of international control there is a simple remedy. Let them recommend international control of the oil in the Middle East, at the end of the debate tonight, and I will join the Conservative Party first thing in the morning.

The real tragedy is that just as Mr. Khrushchev has buried Stalin, the Prime Minister has exhumed Karl Marx. This is exactly what Marx said would happen when the international capitalists got up against the wall; they would use force and would try everything they could to maintain political power for themselves. Those like the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), who talk about the battle for men's minds and that sort of thing, had better look at the material which we have been providing for the battle for men's minds during the last five weeks. I am tempted to put a wreath on Karl Marx's grave tonight with the inscription, "With love from Anthony Eden."

We come to the real question, which is the only question that we can seriously consider tonight in terms of our vital national interests, and that is free passage through the Canal. The users' authority will look peculiarly stupid when Nasser says, "Do not bother with your own pilots. We have a pilot here and he will take your ship through." There will be a shortage of pilots, but there will be no stoppage.

Let us consider the 1888 Convention, upon which everything is based. Does any hon. Gentleman opposite know that Britain would not sign it in 1888 because it was said that the Convention would fetter Britain's control of Egypt? So when we have a great blowing up of moral indignation, let us remember that for sixteen years we would not sign the Convention because we said that it did not recognise our unrivalled power and position in Egypt.

The second point about the 1888 Convention is that we did not enforce it. We allowed Israeli shipping to be blockaded when we had troops in the Canal Zone. Let nobody be deluded by what M. Pineau said yesterday, that we are going to use Israeli shipping and take it through under cover of the users' authority and its pilots. However, I do not like to bring Israel into the discussion lest people think that I am going to recommend a certain course of action.

I accept the view that this is an international company ; that the British Government, being a 44 per cent. shareholder, is responsible for the company, and that by withdrawing the pilots and re-engaging them with another organisation we are in violation of the Convention of 1888. If anyone doubts that, let him read Article 12, which says : The High Contracting Parties … agree that none of them shall endeavour to obtain with respect to the Canal territorial or commercial advantages or privileges in any international arrangements which may be concluded. If having one's own authority which sends ships through without paying a penny to Egypt is not getting a commercial advantage I would like to know what is. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Bowden) described the situation yesterday in this way, that it was like going to a cinema with one's own usherette and then refusing to pay the admission charge.

Let us not have any humbug about Britain basing itself on the 1888 Convention. I do not deny that free passage through the Canal is absolutely vital for Britain and for every other country which uses it. The question is : did we make any attempt to get this matter raised and brought up to date with the Menzies mission? The answer is that there were no negotiations of any kind with Colonel Nasser in Cairo. Mr. Menzies was sent there to explain and persuade, but he was not empowered to negotiate.

We are told that the Prime Minister's patience is exhausted. We talk about dictators, but some of us are wondering who is who in this matter. I am told that the Prime Minister's patience is exhausted, and yet he has not given any opportunity for free negotiation with President Nasser about the future of the Canal.

Sir Lancelot Jovnson-Hicks (Chichester)

Is the hon. Gentleman quoting the Prime Minister as saying that his patience is exhausted? Will the hon. Gentleman say what are the sources of his information for making that statement?

Mr. Benn

The phrase "my patience is exhausted" comes from a pre-war period, as hon. Members know. I was making a humble comparison with one of the earliest phrases that I remember from my pram. I heard of the Japanese attack on Manchuria and later, when I was able to walk, I heard about the Spanish war. If there is anybody in this dispute whose patience is advertised as being exhausted, it is the Prime Minister's and not Nasser's.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

This is most unfair. The hon. Gentleman should not put words into the Prime Minister's mouth and compare him to Hitler. It is a smear campaign.

Mr. Benn

I am merely saying that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said that it is no use going on with negotiations with Nasser. If we are considering who is the aggressor we can only judge by who does what. One reason why we have tabled our Amendment is that, in our view, if Britain were to attack Egypt we would be the aggressors.

Let me quote again from the debate in 1954, and I quote from a Member who may or may not be in the Chamber; I have only just found the quotation and I have not had an opportunity to give him notice that I should refer to it. I refer to the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer). He was talking about us having British troops in Egypt without the Treaty being in operation. He said : Should we not be in a sorry position if Egypt took us to U.N.O. and if we were branded by U.N.O. as an aggressor …? This is the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing speaking. Carried one stage further, if we insisted on remaining there"— he was speaking about the Canal Zone Base— would not U.N.O. have a perfect right under the Charter to send in a combined force to turn us out, as they did in Korea?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 789.] That is exactly the situation which we believe would develop if we were to use force.

I come now to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). The noble Lord had a brilliant suggestion. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman said this, the noble Lord said : Does not my hon. and gallant Friend conceive it possible that for once we should use the veto in our own interests?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1956; Vol. 531, c. 789.] When the noble Lord's leader says that we cannot take it to the United Nations because of the Soviet veto, it is a little hard for the noble Lord to say that if we were branded as an aggressor we would use the veto ourselves.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Gentleman's party subscribed to the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter of the United Nations incorporates the veto. If there is a veto in the United Nations Charter, why should not we use it?

Mr. Benn

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will be as surprised as I am to find that the noble Lord has got the point. This is exactly what my right hon. Friend is saying in the Amendment. Although there is a veto in the United Nations and although the General Assembly may not agree, let us take it there. If the position taken by the noble Lord is that with or without the veto we stick by the United Nations, I am entirely with him and I will pass to my next point.

Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)

The hon. Gentleman made great play with who is the aggressor. Does not he realise that Colonel Nasser already has been the aggressor in the act that he has done, and, what is most important, would he answer this? What does he think of Colonel Nasser's threat to put into prison British nationals if they refused to work under him on the Canal?

Mr. Benn

I do not know whether the hon. Member was present at the beginning of my speech. I devoted a great deal of time to arguing whether Nasser was guilty under international law, and I said that, in my view, there was the International Court to decide that. If the hon. Member likes to get up after that and say that Nasser is the aggressor, I am afraid that he is tempting me back to that part of my speech which I have already passed.

I now come to the question of force. No one pretends that hon. Members on this side of the House do not say that there are certain circumstances in which force is lawful. If Egypt attacked Israel, the Tripartite Declaration would come into operation at once and we should use it against Egypt. We should use it, if the United Nations sanctioned it, or if we ourselves were attacked, but not otherwise.

I have here some quotations which, so far as I am concerned, completely settle this matter for me. They are quotations about the functions and responsibilities of a great Power in a situation like this. It is quite simply a quotation from a speech made at the beginning of the United Nations Organisation. It says this : At intervals in history, mankind has sought by the creation of international machinery to solve disputes between nations by agreement and not by force. Hitherto all these endeavours have failed. Yet no one here doubts that despite these earlier failures a further attempt must be made. … Great Powers can make a two-fold contribution (1) by the support of this organization; (2) by setting themselves certain standards in international conduct and by observing them scrupulously in all their dealings with other countries. The greater the power any State commands, the heavier its responsibility to wield that power with consideration for others and with restraint upon its own selfish impulses. This is what the Prime Minister said at San Francisco. If the Prime Minister would repeat those words tonight, my right hon. and hon. Friends might think twice about pressing our Amendment. The fact is that the Prime Minister has used all these speeches and we all have made these speeches about upholding the rule of law, but the test comes when we think that we have been wronged, and that is what we urge tonight.

I would like to say a word about Israel. There is a temptation, particularly among my hon. Friends who, like myself, believe that Israel must survive and develop in peace, to use Israel as an excuse for turning on Colonel Nasser. There can be no greater friend of Israel in this House than I am. I say that quite sincerely. I have pressed that Israel should have arms in the present situation. I believe that if ever there was a case for it, it is today, with the massive supply of Russian war materials now going into Egypt, and that Israel should have more arms at once.

I do not believe that any settlement of the Canal dispute can be regarded as final until the Israeli flag is going up and down the waterway of this Canal. But to use Israel now, after we have ignored her for five years, will be to pave the way for the destruction of Israel and her elimination from the Middle East. I say that for this reason. Israel can only survive in the long run if she can live with her neighbours. Now that the Western Powers, by their acts of violence and threats of violence against countries of the Middle East, are in such a grave position and are so weak—[An HON. MEMBER : "What acts?"] Does not the hon. Gentleman remember that in Cyprus today, and in Algeria, very great violence is being used? I suggest that the Western Powers are maintaining themselves by violence, and if Israel is used as a pawn by us, I believe that it will ultimately destroy her.

The tragedy of this policy is quite simply this : if it succeeded, it would fail. Supposing that we had now, on the tape, a message that Colonel Nasser had agreed to international control. Suppose he said, "We will have the London plan." Where further would we be in this House? Where nearer to any solution of the real problem of the Middle East? The truth is that it would mean that a couple of dozen of international bureaucrats would go into Cairo to set up their international organisation. The pilots would go home. There would be no British troops in the Canal and Colonel Nasser could close it any time he liked. There can be no security except the security of good relations with Egypt.

This country is not willing to face up to the new implications in world affairs. There are four problems in the Middle East. There is, first, Arab nationalism. Now that we have aligned ourselves with the French in Algeria any ultimate hope of having Arab nationalism on our side is lost. There is the Arab-Israeli dispute. We can only settle that by pacification, and, as the Prime Minister said two years ago, pacification means being on good terms with both Jew and Arab.

There is the problem of the cold war, and we cannot settle that problem while we go on bidding with the Russians as to who will provide more arms for the Arab countries. Until we get rid of the Bagdad Pact we shall never get the Russians to agree to peace in the Middle East, so that whether the bureaucrats are members of the users' association, or whether they are in Cairo itself, is as nothing to these great issues that are being decided in the Middle East today.

The problem of the Middle East is poverty. When a great rich country like ours threatens sanctions against a poor country like Egypt, however great the provocation and however much we may dislike the man, world opinion will say, "This is not right," and we shall lose the claim of having influence in that part of the world.

I say finally to the Prime Minister that I believe that we could have peace ; there is a prospect for peace in the Middle East if only the party opposite could forget its dreams of other empires in the days of its youth. Any hope for peace in the Middle East centres upon the solution of the problems which really confront the people who live there. If the Prime Minister is not willing to give an assurance tonight in answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey, I say to him that he may very deliberately provoke a war. This House most vote tonight. Let us warn him that this would be a war without national unity at home and without allies abroad prepared to support us in it. It would be a war without purpose and without hope, and, for all we know, a war without end as well.

I say quite sincerely to the Prime Minister that even if it succeeds in the short run, which is by no means certain, it can never succeed in the long run. I believe that it will bring disgrace, dishonour and possibly disaster to this country. I say this quite sincerely and I urge all my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment tonight.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

Having been away from the House for some time, I am interested to find that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) continues to have that fairy-book mentality which sees everything in terms of good fairies of the extreme Left and bad fairies of the middle Left, Centre and Right. On this great issue which we are discussing he must bring us back to the sort of Victorian pantomime which seems to form his general scheme of values in relation to the modern world.

I am aware that there are one or two people on the other benches who have, by their noises, made it quite clear that their only desire is to promote their own party interests in this two-day debate. I am very glad that they form a very small minority, though they do appear always to be able to sit on the benches longer than more moderate-minded hon. Members.

My justification for intervening in this debate is this. In my constituency many months ago I warned my constituents not only about Colonel Nasser but about the possibility of him seizing the Canal. The Canal problem, as many previous speakers have pointed out, is not an isolated incident; it is part of the general problem of the Middle East and cannot be looked at in isolation.

There is one statement which has been made in this House and in the Press which should not, I think, be completely accepted, namely, that there is unanimity of Arab opinion. In fact, there is a dichotomy. There is an overall pattern of Arab nationalism; that is undoubtedly true. On the other hand, there are very intense jealousies and rivalries between the various Arab countries, that being particularly true of those who are benefiting most out of increased oil revenues.

I would suggest that one of the reasons which prompted Nasser to take his step was his realisation that if Egypt does not make her bid for the leadership of the Arab world now or in the next year or two, her appeal to the other Arab countries will have gone because they will be far more self-sustaining. The building up of their oil industries, the impact of modern technology and so on will give them futures and destinies of their own quite independent of Egypt. If Egypt wishes—as it would appear from Colonel Nasser's book that he does—to have a great imperial design for the Arab world under his leadership, then she must make her bid now. I feel that that is a very relevant consideration in judging this whole problem. Time is against Egypt.

There is a further factor which I do not think has yet been fully assessed, namely, the impact of Russian influence in the Middle East. I do not mean only the general Russian influence, the influence of Communist doctrine and so on, with which we all have to live—as farmers have to live with thistles and docks, so do we have to live with Marxists. I am referring to the more direct and considered effort of Russian penetration. I am not myself one of those who believe that the Czech arms deal was just a little buying arrangement done between Cairo and Prague. If one looks at the equipment which has been going there, one cannot believe that it is just surplus stores left over from the Second World War. The tanks are of a very modern type and of very considerable size. That should be borne in mind, not only in relation to the Canal but in relation to a potential threat to world peace in the Middle East. I should have thought that those on both sides of the House who feel deep concern for the future of Israel ought to give that factor further consideration.

Turning to the question of the Canal itself, I had thought, until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, that it was generally agreed by everybody that the seizure of the Canal had been an illegal act. [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] Evidently there are more who entertain the hon. Member's folly. The hon. Gentleman raised the question of why this matter cannot be, or has not been, taken to the International Court. I am advised by my legal friends that when there is a dispute between a private company, although of an international character, and a sovereign Government, it cannot go before the International Court.

We must in this House recognise that one of the many weaknesses of the International Court lies in the fact that bodies other than sovereign Governments have no standing at The Hague. That is a very grave weakness. In my opinion we should try to establish in international law some form of body which is recognised at The Hague, having a status below that of a government, rather in the same way as trade unions, friendly societies and joint stock companies are recognised here.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

If the Foreign Secretary's argument is correct and the company is written into the Convention, then, of course, the parties to the Convention could carry the matter to the International Court.

Mr. Price

I bow to the hon. and learned Gentleman's legal opinion ; I will not argue with him about that. But when it comes to the actual position of the Suez Canal Company, that Company did not come into existence by virtue of the 1888 Convention ; it was already in existence, going back to the time of its original Concession. That is what I had in mind. I agree entirely with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it may be that some aspect of the matter may be taken to The Hague; but one does recall here the judgment given in the Persian oil case.

Mr. Paget

Surely, the situation is this. It is either illegal by Egyptian law or by international law. It is not illegal by Egyptian law, and if the Court of International Law at The Hague has no jurisdiction, it is not a matter for international law. There is no illegality about it.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

I wonder if my hon. Friend would allow me to add just one point to his admirable submission. Egypt has never thought fit to sign the Statute of the International Court.

Mr. J. Hynd

She did.

Mr. Price

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It only goes to show the confusion there is over this business.

I should like to make it perfectly clear that nobody could want more than I do to see established the international rule of law. But it is never contended that there is an international rule of law similar to our domestic rule of law; the whole question of the recognition and the enforcement of its authority poses serious practical problems which must be faced. With this great weakness in international law at the moment, I do not believe that one can, with quite the confidence of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, advocate—

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is on this confusion of law that the Government's plan to force their way through the Canal under the users' association is based?

Mr. Price

The hon. and learned Gentleman is jumping a stage in the argument. I do not believe that my right hon. Friend would advocate anyone at the moment forcing anything through the Canal, and certainly I do not.

Mr. Paget

What on earth is the hon. Gentleman saying?

Mr. Price

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will admit that he is jumping a stage in the argument, on the facts as presented to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

It follows that we must give great cognisance to the arguments advanced last night by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) with regard to the creation of new international bodies. I felt that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East displayed his fairy-book mentality when he threw doubt about the sincerity of anyone on this side of the House who might be anxious to create more international bodies. We do not need to go the whole way and agree entirely with his view of a sort of world international Socialism in order to be internationally-minded.

The next point which has not been developed sufficiently in discussing negotiation is that one does not negotiate in vacuo; one negotiates with specific people. In the case of Egypt, the specific person is Colonel Nasser. Hon. Gentlemen sitting at what I might term the "mountain" end of the House seem to ignore that. Negotiation here is conducted not with some nice Liberal humanist or Christian Socialist; hon. Members must not exercise their imagination in terms of Fabian debating societies.

We must look at the character of the man with whom we are asked to negotiate. When one does that, it does not mean that there is no negotiation but it does mean that any agreement, to be satisfactory, must have in it clauses that are mainly self-sustaining rather than clauses which depend entirely on the continued good will of a single individual. I should have thought that to a party which wishes always to broaden the base of decision-making, the idea of one man at that end having the control and making the decision would be anathema to them, but apparently it is not on this occasion.

When one views the actions taken by Her Majesty's Government, I think they have followed entirely the correct pattern for those who wish for an international solution. The doctrine laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was one that was subscribed to by the Opposition Front Bench in the early days of this issue. The calling of the London Conference seems to me to have been an absolutely proper and justified act, and it is not stretching Article VIII of the 1888 Convention too far to regard that as one's authority, not to mention Article 33 of the United Nations Charter.

Mention has been made of troop movements. From both sides of the House we have had justification for them as a precautionary measure, but subsequent speakers from the Opposition benches have given the idea that they have been on a massive scale quite out of any proportion to what was necessary as a precautionary move to rescue British lives if they were imperilled.

It is rather interesting to see the recent News Chronicle public opinion poll, which asked the question : Do you think we were right or wrong to take military precautions and step up our military forces in the Mediterranean? The people who carried out that poll discovered that 59 per cent. of Labour voters thought it was right; 75 per cent. of Liberal voters and 80 per cent. of Conservative voters. That does not suggest to me a state of national alarm over the measures that have been taken.

We are left with the problem, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put it to us, of what is the next step. The House must face the fact that there is no completely satisfactory solution to that problem. There are only varying degrees of unsatisfactory solutions, some of them less unsatisfactory than others. There is not one that is completely satisfactory. If this matter is to be dealt with by negotiation, clearly one cannot get one's own way completely. I thought that the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) put that issue incredibly well.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. S. Silverman

Why incredibly?

Mr. Price

The question of timing in this issue is a matter upon which I am not in a position to have any opinion. We know that there are subtleties and ins and outs in diplomatic timing, but I believe that hon. Members who have been worrying about the intentions of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and particularly of the Prime Minister—that he is prepared to cast aside the United Nations like kicking an old salmon tin down the road and will then plunge us off on military adventures—simply are not dealing with the facts as they are.

I was astonished, when I came back to this country a couple of weeks ago, to pick up some of the more popular newspapers and to see presented as the view of Tory backbenchers views that at the most may be held by 20 of us. That was being put over as the view of the Conservative Party. The idea that one was going back almost to the Drake and Hawkins type of approach to these matters bears no relation to the facts.

I realise that certain people, like the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, with his fairy-book mind, see us in that rôle, and cannot see the facts of the situation so that they can deal with Members on these benches as they are and not as hon. Members opposite imagine us to be. We know our own views better than does the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East. That sort of thing may be good election stuff at a conference at Margate or Brighton but it bears no relation to the facts. I suffer from the disadvantage of having had a rather scientific education and, therefore, am interested more in facts than in a mere miasma of emotion. We should do well to follow the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey, which, I believe, has set the pattern for the debate.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made slight modifications on the theme that the Government were responsible for sabre rattling. He accused the Government of wanting war because they had not stopped rumours. But who started the rumours? They were not being pushed out by the Conservative Central Office. Is it suggested that representatives of the Foreign Office were going around the bars of London hawking these rumours? We all know where they started. The hungry imagination—

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Price

I am delighted that the hon. Member sees himself as one of the characters in the picture that I am painting. He looks very well on it.

It must be said here and now that we on these benches are no more anxious to use force than are hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches. I do not say that because I feel it necessary to tell it to our own Front Bench, whose occupants know it and are in touch with us. I say it because, going out from this House, one hopes that the sentence or two of one's speech that are quoted may do something to offset some of the vivid articles that we have read in the Press recently. It seems to me that they have been having a go at the "Thousand and One Nights" and going from the sturdy masochism of the Daily Express, through the simpering seduction of the Manchester Guardian, to the prostituted and lascivious assaults of the New Statesman and Nation. We on this side of the House are as much opposed to force in the context in which we are accused of warmongering and sabre rattling as are hon. Members opposite. I ask them to do us the courtesy of crediting us with holding our own views sincerely and to be as generous to us as, I trust, at least some of us on this side of the House are generous to them.

A point that I hope will be made from the Opposition Front Bench by the Leader of the Opposition when he winds up the debate from his side of the House is that we shall be paying an economic cost for restraint and upholding international law, because this issue will take time. It will affect our trade. We do not yet know to what extent. If the Canal were closed, it would certainly affect our balance of payments.

I plead with the Leader of the Opposition, in return, as it were, for the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey, that somewhere in his remarks he introduce the thought that the idea of economic progress, greater leisure, a higher standard of living, and similar aims would be affected by our determination to go through the slow and, I believe, proper method of the international machinery, and that at the end of it we may have no solution at all. That is the implication of pursuing the international process. It is something on which, I hope, hon. Members opposite agree with me. The test will be whether we are prepared to accept these extra burdens on our economy.

I could not help feeling—I may be sounding slightly contentious—that when at Brighton the T.U.C. passed a resolution about going to the United Nations, a resolution with which I do not disagree, the Congress subsequently put forward a lot of suggestions for what trade unionists often demand. Without going into all the aspects of the matter, I would observe that there is no doubt that if we do take the Suez dispute to the United Nations the economic conditions necessary to meet the demands of Mr. Cousins and others would be prejudiced, though none of us can say by how much. I should like some of the many hon. Members here who have influence with the trade unions to point that out before the debate is concluded.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price) invited us to deal with hon. Members on his side of the House on their merits and not to attribute to all of them the views of a small minority of them. I think that that is what we have felt very inclined to do tonight, especially since we have heard one speech of outstanding wisdom and integrity, that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). It tempts me to suggest that the very bitter and clear division between the two sides of the House on the main point at issue over Suez may blind us to the fact that there is a wide amount of agreement on some of the other matters we have been discussing.

When the Foreign Secretary began the debate today he made extensive quotations from the speech which the Leader of the Opposition made on 2nd August. I find that I can still perfectly well agree with those quotations, those references to the ambitions of Colonel Nasser and to the vital importance to this country of free passage through the Suez Canal. It seems to me that they constitute ground common to both sides of the House.

I hope that it will be also agreed that the suggestions that we on this side of the House have some special affection for Colonel Nasser—that has been implied a little in the debate—fall very wide of the mark, especially when we remember the attitude this party has adopted on the other critical issue in the Middle East, that of Israel, for we have been criticised in the past for showing undue prejudice against Egypt's case and against Colonel Nasser in particular. Nor can anyone suppose that the party which sent troops to Korea, which authorised armed action in Malaya and in Kenya, which accepted the principle of German rearmament, is a pacifist party or a party which is reluctant to fulfil its proper obligations under the United Nations, even if that involves the use of armed force.

All of this, of course, in one sense only emphasises the extremely sharp difference of view on the main point at issue, that whereas hon. Members opposite feel that if they cannot get an acceptable settlement of the Suez Canal dispute the Government are prepared and are entitled to use force with or without the authority of the United Nations—

Mr. Osborne

That has not been said by us, and it is important to have this matter right. We on this side of the House are as determined as hon. Members opposite that force, if it should be needed—and we do not want to have it —shall be used only after we have the support of the United Nations.

Mr. Mayhew

I accept what the hon. Member has said as valuable and helpful. We do not want to discourage hon. Members opposite from asking their leaders to make this matter clear, because there is no point in exaggerating the differences between the two sides on this matter. We on this side say that the use of force, assuming that Nasser does not attack us first—which we can assume— can be justified only with United Nations' authority, and I hope that we shall not attempt, on either side of the House, to widen the gulf between us, but realise that, in truth, both sides of the House want to settle this matter peacefully. We need to get a statement from the Government themselves to that effect.

Mr. Robson Brown

Would the hon. Gentleman clarify that statement in one important particular? When he refers to the United Nations does he mean the Security Council?

Mr. Mayhew

Yes, I think that that is what we mean.

We have stated in our Amendment that we regard the nationalisation of the Canal as having been done in an intolerably arbitrary and provocative way. No one will doubt that. However, our point is that that is not an act of war. It amounts to a threat of robbery, a very serious threat to our material standards. It amounts by itself to a threat of robbery, and we say it is wrong to answer a threat of robbery with a threat of murder, and even worse to answer a threat of robbery with an act of what would be murder. Thus the main issue between us is really a moral one, an issue that is difficult to argue about, the judgment of Tightness and wrongness.

Personally, while I have never doubted the Government's resolve to use force in the last resort, I have also always felt that, faced with the reality of the act, faced with the embarrassment of firing the first shot, an embarrassment which has led to the formation of the canal users' association to try to avoid the embarrassment of firing the first shot, the Government would see that that would be an action which a really democratic Government could not take. I still feel that, faced with that problem, the Government probably will not use force. Therefore, let us try to encourage the Prime Minister to make clear that the Government will not use force without prior reference to the United Nations on this issue.

There are the practical implications of the use of force, implications which many of my hon. Friends have made clear. It is difficult to speak on this subject now without repeating what has been said already, and I shall not attempt to do so. However, in addition to the practical consequences of using force, we now have the knowledge, as have the Government, that that action would be taken in defiance of half of British public opinion, led by the Labour Party and by the T.U.C. In these circumstances, I do beg them to understand that it is just not possible to take that action.

It is true that in our history we have fought wars despite a very great body of opposition in this country to them. The South African War, for example, was fought despite a very great body of opposition in this country to it. However, that was a long time ago. That was before the emergence of the organised Labour movement in this country. I doubt very much whether if, at the time of the South African War, the degree of opposition to war had existed then which exists now and if we had had then the organised Labour movement, the South African War would have been possible.

The Government, somehow or another, will have to climb down on this issue. I hope that they will do so, even though, of course, it will involve us in terrible national humiliation. [HON. MEMBERS : "Not us."] I mean, it will involve the country in humiliation. There is no doubt about that. The Government have led us to a position where we cannot now climb down without a great blow to our prestige and reputation abroad.

Mr. Ellis Smith

That does not apply to the people whom we on these benches represent, and the people in general.

Mr. Mayhew

We have to consider what the effects of a climb down would be on Britain's relations with her Allies in N.A.T.O. and in the Commonwealth. So far as they are concerned, I think there can be no doubt that what I am saying is true.

What are the lessons that we ought to draw for the future from this position that we have got into?

Mr. Paget

To climb down now means the end of the Bagdad Pact.

Mr. Mayhew

There would be quite a number of consequences. Obviously, our prestige in the Middle East would be seriously affected.

How can we avoid a repetition of all this, and what lessons can we learn from the appalling situation into which the Government have landed us? The first lesson is that we can no longer protect our prestige and material interests in the Middle East with our warships and aircraft. That is to say, military power, on which so much Government policy in the Middle East has been based, is far less valuable and vital to us than they have understood.

The position of the Soviet Union seems instructive from this point of view. Today, the Soviet Union has more power and influence in the Middle East than we in this country have. The Soviet Union has a greater capacity for getting the countries of the Middle East along the paths it wants them to take than we have, and yet the Soviet Union has no military bases in that area. There is no Red Army or Red Fleet within hundreds of miles. If the Red Fleet enters the Mediterranean it will do so on a courtesy visit by invitation of the Egyptian Government, and that conceivably may happen.

The Soviet Union understands better than we do that power and influence in that area depend no longer on building military forces but on the cultivation of political support among the new forces there. Part of its success is due to unscrupulous exploitation of Arab hatred of Israel, but the bulk of it comes from skilful support of the legitimate aims of the Arab peoples in that area.

The Arabs want sovereignty, racial equality and an end to colonialism, and they want trade without strings. The Russians are doing their utmost to identify themselves with these demands and they have actually capitalised their military weakness as a means of flattering Arab desires for sovereignty. They have backed all this with a skilful, expensive and effective propaganda machine.

It is not so easy for us to acquire political influence. We have inherited a great mass of bitter hatred and prejudice against this country in past history. We have still in that area a whole lot of commitments embarrassing to us, which we cannot liquidate overnight. But we could certainly do a lot better than we have been doing. We could begin by renouncing the use of force over Suez outside the Charter of the United Nations. We could put our oil contracts on a more normal commercial basis and adopt a less repressive policy in Cyprus, beginning by inviting French troops to leave as soon as possible.

We could show a less equivocal attitude on some of the colour problems in Africa and always, above all, show ourselves good neighbours and genuine supporters of the United Nations. I should like to see this fresh political approach, backed by a vastly improved effort in the field of public relations and propaganda. It was typical that on the very day that Colonel Nasser announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal the B.B.C. announced that, owing to the stinginess of the Treasury, it had been unable to overhaul any of its overseas broadcast transmitters for fourteen years.

The Treasury shows unvarying meanness and hostility towards anything savouring of publicity for Britain in overseas countries. When it is publicity for private firms it is a different matter. If a company director wants a gold-plated car for publicity, the Treasury jumps to assist him and encourage him ; but if it is a matter of information service or the B.B.C. broadcasting service or the British Council, that must be done on a shoestring.

Therefore, the general conclusion for the future is that if we are to recover our influence in the Middle East we must change our whole approach and try to increase our political and economic power in the Middle East rather than go ahead with the traditional policy of increasing our military influence. The times have changed and the whole nature of power in the Middle East has changed with them. It is seventy-four years since the British Fleet, at its leisure, could casually steam towards the Port of Alexandria and bombard it. It may not seem such a long time ago to hon. Members opposite, but times have changed since then and somehow we must change our whole approach to these Middle Eastern countries.

I do not doubt that behind the attitude of hon. Members opposite there is an honest desire to see this country great and a great Power, but their conception of national greatness and national power is seriously out of date and dangerously so. World opinion is less and less inclined today to regard as great countries which have colonies or countries which threaten smaller Powers with armed force. Conceptions of national greatness are beginning to change. It is inevitable in a nuclear age, and when other countries have weapons of absolute destructiveness, military power may cease to be the criterion of national greatness altogether. Nations may come to be judged by other criteria.

If we want to recover our position in the Middle East it is no good yearning for our lost colonial power or trying to recover the privileged position which the British Navy once gave us in that area. We must adapt ourselves to the new situation in which we find ourselves. I am not certain that that is fully understood by hon. Members opposite, and that is why peace and the reputation of our country is safer in our hands than in theirs.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

After having listened to the debate throughout yesterday, and having listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), I was going to say that the two sides of the House were divided by only a very narrow issue. I am not so sure of that, after having heard the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol. South-East (Mr. Benn). I think that there are some fundamental issues between us. The hon. Member says, for instance, that he was surprised that the Conservative Party objects to Nasser having dreams of empire. I should have thought that dreams of empire were the first things to disturb the peace of the world. The hon. Member also said that the Government had no case over the nationalisation of the Canal

I shall devote myself first to the very narrow issue which divides the majority of the House. Hon. Members opposite want us to go to the United Nations immediately and place this matter on its lap and await the result in due course, however protracted and however ineffective the gaining of that result might be. We on this side of the House hold that there are many other courses open to us, and we are going to make all kinds of efforts to secure results. We visualise, for instance, economic efforts.

If I have a dispute with my neighbour I do not have to rush to court immediately to try to get a settlement. I can try negotiation, discussion and inquiry, and that is still our position. Article 33 of the United Nations Charter is being invoked, and we are first attempting negotiation. We have informed the Security Council of the dispute, and under Article 34 the Security Council may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security. So it is up to the Security Council, if it wishes, to take cognisance of the dispute that is going on.

So far, I am convinced that all the steps which the Government have taken have been approved by the majority of the people of this country. But are we satisfied that we are all agreed on the fundamentals? In all the debates and propaganda all over the world we have to keep quite clearly in mind that Colonel Nasser and Egypt have broken a Concession and an Agreement which has another twelve years to run, and Britain is not going to be fobbed off merely with a claim for compensation. We want specific performance of the agreement that an international company shall run the Canal. As the largest shareholder, with 44 per cent. of the shares, and the largest user of the Canal, we have the biggest responsibility and the greatest rights in this issue. It should not be overlooked that in the case of our own domestic nationalisation the shareholders and users had the right to vote at the General Election, whereas in this case no such opportunity has been presented to us.

Now I shall refer briefly to the history of the building of the Canal. That is of great interest because its construction was due entirely to the fiery genius, the unquenchable will and idealism of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who, of course, had a large staff of French technicians and European contractors to help him. During a large part of the 15 years which followed he had the support of Mohammed Said, the Viceroy of Egypt, as I am the first to admit, but his real supporters through all the rebuffs and intrigues and negotiations which were encountered during the period of construction were the business and commercial classes of Britain, France and the other European countries.

Those are the people who are most concerned to ensure that nothing will be done to add 4,000 miles to the journey from the Persian Gulf and India to this country or to Western Europe. Such a journey would add to the cost of the oil, the tea, the rubber, the jute and all the other materials which we bring from the Middle and Far East. Such a journey would mean that ships could make only two-thirds of their annual round trips, and freight charges might have to be doubled or trebled, with corresponding additions to the cost of living.

After hearing the debate yesterday I made inquiries, from which I found that the transport element in the cost of bringing a gallon of crude oil to this country is about 3d. That might easily be doubled or even trebled. When that is related to the cost of crude oil, which is between 8d. and 1s., it will be realised that about 50 per cent. would be added to the landed cost of the oil.

Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)

May I interrupt on that point, because the figures given by the hon. Gentleman conflict completely with mine, and I have just checked with one of the oil companies. They have confirmed what I said in a letter to the Manchester Guardian last week, that the cost of bringing a gallon of oil round the Cape, as compared with through the Canal, is of the order of ¾d. extra.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

There are, of course, other considerations, such as whether fresh bunkering would be necessary, and whether freight rates would rise steeply owing to the demand for tankers, and so on.

Mr. Stokes

They might come down.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I am advised that the cost might be 3d., 4d. or even 6d. At all events it is vital to our cost of living.

Reverting for a moment to the propaganda of Colonel Nasser and the Egyptians over the building of the Canal, the point has been made that the Canal was built by slave labour, with a great many Egyptian deaths. It is interesting to know that de Lesseps gave his workers one-third more wages than were usually paid in Egypt. In addition, he gave them food and accommodation, medical and welfare services, which were introduced for the first time, even including Europe. Of course the corvée, the call-up as it were, of men for the building of the Canal was not in the form of slavery but was a national institution rather similar to the call-up we have today. The latter part of the Canal was built with free labour and high wages, and labour rushed in from all countries to help in its completion.

Much was said last night, and has been said again today, about Hitler marching into the Rhineland. I took the opportunity last night of looking up what the Socialist Party said when the Rhineland was entered. Two days afterwards, in a debate on 9th March, 1936, Mr. Attlee introduced a Motion which was a mass of verbiage, criticising everybody, calling on everyone in general to do nothing in particular except, of course, stating that he was opposed to rearmament. Yet in all books, such as "Guilty Men" and "Your M.P.", about which we have heard so much, it is always the Tories who are criticised for appeasement, giving the impression that Labour would have stood firm and would have dealt with the situation at once.

In case there are any budding Michael Foots on the other side of the House who may try to prove in five years' time that if Labour had been in power Nasser would have been stopped once and for all, I place on record that every speaker in this debate from the other side of the House has merely asked that we should refer the matter to the United Nations organisation. This, of course, is the attitude taken by the Trades Union Congress. For instance, in comparing the present situation with 1939, Mr. Geddes said, a few days ago : The finger is on the trigger … We must tell the Government that if they take this country into an unnecessary war the nation will be roused to a deep, implacable bitter anger such as has never been seen before. He went on to talk about putting the matter before the bar of the world.

So there are no bold words there about stopping Nasser. Yet there may be, and there is indeed every risk of there being, serious incidents in the future. Dr. Mustafa Hifnawi, who is now on the board of the new nationalised Egyptian company, stated in a book about the Canal which he wrote a few years ago, that once Egypt has the Canal, It will not be easy for any country to offend Egypt, for she will own and will have control of the keys to the gateway between East and West, and she will know how to use the gateway by opening and closing it in time of peace and in time of war. What if Nasser blocks the Canal, or commits any other kind of aggression? I would remind hon. Members that at the time of the aggression in Korea the Security Council was informed of the active aggression of North Korea on 25th June. On that day it called on North Korea to halt. It learned the next day that North Korea had not halted, and two days later, on 27th June, it authorised military action, which had actually been anticipated slightly by the United States. [An HON. MEMBER : "Slightly?"] By a few hours. If the worst comes to the worst, that is the kind of action which we shall call for from the Security Council at the appropriate time. If the Security Council does not act in that way then we shall have to think again, and no doubt that is where the question arises as to what action we should take in such an emergency. So much for the future. Let us hope that it will never be necessary. In the meantime—

Mr. Paget

Will the hon. Gentleman permit me to ask one question? On two occasions the Prime Minister has said very clearly that we shall never tolerate a single Power having control of the Canal. It is true that we are trying to negotiate. Are we going to make those words good by force of arms, or are we not? It is not a question of a future blocking, it is a question of who is controlling the Canal.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

What we are trying to do at present is to get settlement by negotiation. That is all that has been agreed.

Mr. Paget

We want to know the method.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

There may be other ways of bringing Nasser to his senses—by economic sanctions or the blocking of Egypt's sterling balances, which would be a serious blow to her. Nasser is already in difficulties and has had to restrict imports. He uses sterling to buy raw materials. There may be other possible lines of action which we can take within the next few months.

If Egypt is arbitrarily going to break treaties, she must remember that she is very dependent upon a number of treaties, such as the Nile Water Agreement. In any international anarchy in the way of treaty-breaking, Egypt would be the first to suffer. Apart from the question of the construction of the Aswan High Dam, Egypt is dependent upon the good will of the Sudan and a number of other countries for her water supplies.

When it was built, the Suez Canal was idealised by millions as giving rise to hope for future peace and prosperity. Perhaps out of this dispute will come a permanent internationalisation of the Canal. In the meantime, it is our clear duty to pursue the aim—there are many methods of achieving it—of keeping the Canal clear for the commerce of the world. In that aim we have the support not only of the whole of this country but 99 per cent. of the world.

7.1 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

If I do not follow the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) in all the interesting points which he has developed, I hope he will not regard it as any lack of courtesy towards him or lack of interest in his arguments. The reason is that when so many hon. Members are endeavouring to make a contribution to the debate, it would be a mistake to take up time in mere argumentation between one hon. Member and another. I will, however, make two very short comments on his speech. I do not expect him to agree with them, but I hope he will refrain from defending himself against me in the interests of the time of other hon. Members.

First, the hon. Member seems to have a very strange idea about what is meant by "negotiation". He was challenged by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to say whether he thought the Government ought to be in favour of using force, and he replied, "We are not at that stage yet. We are still negotiating. We can apply economic sanctions. We can do something about sterling balances". It is clear that what he was intending to convey was that in his mind "negotiation" means first making up one's mind about the minimum that one will take, declaring to all and sundry that one is not prepared to compromise, and then using any kind of pressure short of actual war to make the man with whom one is in dispute agree with one. If that is what one means by "negotiation", one is entitled to pursue one's negotiation if one thinks it useful to do so, but one must not be surprised if the man on the other side takes one at one's word and negotiates in that way too.

My other comment is about what the hon. Gentleman estimated to be the extra cost of oil, on which, I fully agree, all our industry depends, if we were to by-pass the Canal and avoid the risk of any stoppage and of any war by taking the ships another way. Quite apart from politics, on a matter of that kind, if the hon. Member says one thing and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) says another, I should on the whole prefer the opinion of my right hon. Friend. Even if my right hon. Friend is wrong and the hon. Gentleman is right, I most earnestly invite the hon. Gentleman to consider whether even the extra cost at his estimate would not in the end be much cheaper not merely for this country but for the world than any other course which might land us in further adventure.

Our partner in the new adventure, the United States, has just declared that it will be no party at all to forcing any ships through the Suez Canal under this or any other plan. The United States will take the alternative method, with all its cost, and it has said that if any of the smaller and poorer nations which require the oil are not able or prepared to pay the increased cost, the U.S.A. will provide them with the extra dollars to enable them to do so.

Mr. Stokes

Perhaps I might interrupt my hon. Friend in support of what he is saying. Is he aware that there need be no extra charge on the Persian Gulf oil? The oil companies make £3 10s. per ton clear profit, while the estimated increase is equal to about £1 per ton.

Mr. Silverman

I am perfectly prepared to accept the view of my right hon. Friend, as I was his estimate of the extra cost. All I am saying is that if my right hon. Friend turned out to be mistaken and the hon. Gentleman opposite to be right, the extra cost would—for once in a way I agree with Mr. Dulles—be amply justified.

Mr. Osborne

The offer of the United States is very generous.

Mr. Silverman

I am sure it is generous, although the United States is not always so wise. On this occasion, I think the United States is both wise and generous.

Mr. Stokes

The United States can take it out of the oil companies.

Mr. Silverman

I am being led further than I wished about this.

In the end, the issue which the House has to decide tonight does not depend on any technical interpretation of law or of the United Nations Charter. Let us assume, as I think we may fairly do, that there is here a legitimate dispute about an important matter between this country and Egypt. The question that we have to consider is whether the Government, in the conditions of the mid-twentieth century, are taking the right course in dealing with the dispute.

I hope hon. Members will not think my argument too academic. This country is not inhabited in the main by pacifists; nor is Egypt, America or the Soviet Union. All these countries are inhabited by human beings with all the old prejudices, impulses, selfish desires and aims. When they are attacked, they still want to defend themselves. When their interests are, in their opinion, violated they want to take the law into their own hands and secure justice for themselves on the basis that there is no authority that can do it for them. When their vital interests are, in their opinion, affected, they are not always careful to consider where justice lies. They are inclined, as all of us are, to assume that justice lies with them and that it is for them to take the law into their own hands and secure their interests for themselves.

The world today is no different in any of these respects from what it has been at any time in its history, but there is something different. What is different is the revolutionary change which has taken place in the character of the weapons available to men and nations to defend themselves or their imagined interests. Anyone can say when a war may start, because he can start it himself. Anyone can say for what reason or in what circumstances he will set these weapons in motion. However, as was pointed out long ago, it is much easier to decide when one will start a war than when one can stop it.

I dare say that there are in some Government circles—I have been told there are—some ideas that this could be a quick operation, that all we should need to do would be to land a couple of divisions, occupy Alexandria one day and Cairo the next and everything would then be easy. The whole operation would be over in three or four days. I have heard that said before. I heard it said in August, 1914, when we were told that it was a simple operation and that it would all be over by Christmas. Sir, it is not over yet. We paid 20 million lives for that mistake in 1914 and another 30 million lives in the last war. Now, we are equipped with weapons whose free use would amount to the voluntary suicide of the human race.

What is the background against which we have to see the threat of force? What is the essential central problem of the twentieth century? It is not how to make men and nations pacifists, because we shall not do that, if we do it at all, for many generations. It is how, somehow or other, we can prevent their national passions, prejudices and emotions bringing down the whole world in irretrievable catastrophe. That is the problem.

How are we trying to do it? We are trying to induce men and nations, and especially nations, not to become pacifists, not to renounce the idea of force in any circumstances—we accept that that is beyond human attainability in any for-seeable time—but we are trying to substitute for the right of self-judgment in the use of force a reference to some third party, to substitute for the anarchy and chaos produced when every nation is entitled to use force for itself as and when it deems advisable the collective organisation of peace.

When a situation arises in which we feel most keenly that our rights have been unjustly attacked, that our future depends on justice being done, it surely becomes the most elementary duty of the Government in charge in those circumstances to make it absolutely crystal clear, plain beyond argument or equivocation, in what circumstances and for what purposes they will take the enormous risk of starting a chain of warlike operations the end of which no man could foresee.

The charge against the Government tonight, as was seen so very clearly and explained so very lucidly by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), is that they have done the one thing which no responsible statesman is entitled to do. They have left in doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity whether and in what circumstances they are prepared to use force to get their way.

Sir L. Heald

I have not said at any time that I condemned, or thought wrong, the action of the Government. It would not be fair to suggest that, and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is always fair in these matters. I do not want to interfere with his argument, but it would be quite wrong if I were to be represented as having made any such suggestion. In fact, I said I was convinced that the Government never had intended to take the action that was suggested, and I have not gone further than that. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not want to put me in an unfair position in that way.

Mr. Silverman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly right, and I apologise to him if I have seemed to read into his speech more than he actually said, but I hope that he, in order to protect himself from the embarrassment of my agreement with him, will not say anything to take anything away from the very excellent contribution which he made earlier. While he believes that the Government do not intend to use force otherwise than in accordance with his interpretation of the Charter of the United Nations, the right hon. and learned Gentleman called upon the Government to make that clear.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot call upon the Government to make that clear without entitling me to say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself is not satisfied that they have made it clear already. That is all I said. I said that the Government had left it in doubt. I do not say that the Government have said that they were going to embark on war. I agree that they have never said that.

My charge against the Government is quite different. I should prefer them to say that if that is what they mean, but my charge is exactly the same as that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is that they have left it uncertain whether they intend to do so or not, and that is even worse than saying that they intend to use force.

Those who have lived through what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) has called "this terrible twentieth century" from early manhood till now, through two world wars, with all that they have meant to the world and to the fortunes of this country, will remember how frequently it was said, both at the time of the 1914 War and in the 1930s—"For Heaven's sake, make your position plain ; do not mislead the people." It has been said that if only we had in 1914 made it clear that if Belgium were invaded we should use force, Belgium would never have been invaded. I do not know whether that is true or not, but, obviously, there is a great argument for it; and the same applied to the middle of the 1930s.

It is equally true to say that we must not leave the world, or the people with whom we are in controversy, in doubt on the other side. If we mean to use force, then let us say so. If we do not mean to use force, then say that too. If we mean to use force in some circumstances and not in others, then we must define quite clearly when we will use it and when we will not. The worst thing to do is to leave everybody in doubt about what we will do until we find ourselves drifting from one position to another and in the end find ourselves engulfed in the final catastrophe.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

The hon. Gentleman is arguing in favour of an ultimatum to Egypt—that we should declare beforehand that, in certain eventualities, we shall resort to war. That is the policy he is in fact advocating.

Mr. Silverman

The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) must not anticipate. He probably thinks a lot faster than I do. I do not know whether that is so or not, but whether he thinks faster than I do or not, he certainly thinks faster than I can speak, and where my argument is leading me the noble Lord must leave to me to explain myself.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), like myself, is a solicitor. Would he say that when instructed to arrive at a settlement, he would announce in advance that in no circumstances he would sue?

Mr. Silverman

The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) is really not doing himself justice, or I am even more obscure in expression than I usually am. I am saying exactly the opposite. In any negotiations, if one wants to use force, and the hon. Gentleman has instanced the parallel of litigation, one must say in what circumstances one will use it and in what circumstances one will not. That is the point I am making. The whole gravemen of the case which my right hon. Friends are making against the Government is that they are taking the gravest and most unnecessary risks to the peace of the world, in circumstances in which if they cannot maintain the peace they cannot maintain organised society at all, by leaving in doubt in what circumstances and for what purposes they are prepared to use force.

That does not mean, as the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South thought, that I think that we should present an ultimatum to Egypt and say that we will go to war if she does not accept it. I am saying what the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey said. I say that there are circumstances in which force can be justified. They are circumstances which were defined by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and which are summarised in the Amendment in the sentence which says that force shall not be used at all except under the authority of the United Nations.

That does not necessarily mean that one must always have a decision of the United Nations. I think that it is Article 51 of the United Nations Charter which makes it perfectly clear that if there is an armed attack upon one, one can defend oneself without going to the United Nations or anyone else. It makes it perfectly clear also that that right is not merely the right of an individual nation, but a collective right, too.

People talk about Korea. I shall not argue the merits and substance of the Korean war. Someone asked, supposing the Russians had delivered their veto, would we still have been entitled to act in the Korean war? Assuming that one was right in one's case against North Korea, one did not need the decision of the Security Council at all. Collective self-defence is well within the Charter, but no question of collective self-defence arises here.

This has nothing to do with whether what the Egyptians have done is a breach of the law. Who says that every breach of the law must be treated as an act of aggression and that all the forces of armed warfare available to the United Nations must be used in every case wherever any scintilla of some treaty or some obligation in international law has been broken? No one would be so senseless as to say so. I do not know whether Egypt in this matter has broken any law. I think that it is very difficult to say that she has.

One cannot commit an illegal act unless the act one commits is in breach of some known law. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton pointed out in an intervention, certainly what was done is not in conflict with Egyptian law. If it is in conflict with international law, then the International Court has jurisdiction to deal with it. If it is said that the International Court has no jurisdiction to deal with it, that can be only because there is no breach of international law either.

Suppose there has been a breach of international law; we have an extremely easily arguable case against Nasser, not merely about the Canal. We should have had a stronger case against him if we had really interfered on the only occasion when there has been any breach of the right of free passage through the Canal. Let hon. Members not blame the weakness of the United Nations for that. The United Nations did everything it could. Without any veto at all it passed a unanimous Resolution of the Security Council and if that Resolution was not honoured, if ships are still not going through, it is not because the United Nations failed. It is because we failed.

We were in charge of the Canal. Only we could have done it. According to what the Government are now arguing, if there were any such interference without reference to the United Nations, the country whose rights were infringed would have the right to force its ships through. Was that the advice given to Israel at the time? Did we say to Israel, "You have the unanimous decision of the Security Council in your favour. Force your ships through "? No, we counselled them patience. We cannot conduct our foreign policy on the basis that if we want a military base anywhere, the most effective way to get it is to antagonise the local population as fast and as furiously as we can, and that if some tinpot Hitler is arising in the world, the best way to bring him down is to make him a national and international hero, and that if we want to defend international rights, we lie low and say nothing like Brer Rabbit while everybody else's rights are infringed and shout like blazes when we ourselves are hurt.

That is what the Government have been doing. I say to them in all sincerity that we can no longer swash-buckle our way in the leadership of the world. In this great adventure of the mid-twentieth century on which the future safety of mankind depends, this substitution of collective authority for individual anarchy, either this country takes the lead or ceases to command any authority of any kind in the councils of the world. That is the issue between the two sides of the House tonight. Are we to use the circumstances, grave as they are, to make more effective such tentative beginnings as we have of the machinery of international order, or are we to use them to set the whole world rattling back into barbarity and catastrophe?

7.27 p.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

We are debating in these two days a matter which vitally affects the safety, honour and welfare of this country. The tone of the debate today has been as different from the tone of the debate yesterday as the Opposition's case yesterday was from its case on 2nd August. The persuasive arguments of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) gave me a clearer insight into the difference between the tone of the opposition set by its Front Bench yesterday from that set on 2nd August. It gave me more insight into it, but not sufficient.

On this side of the House we cannot help feeling—and in saying this I do not mean to be offensive—that some partisan reasons have been working in the Opposition for the differences in their tone. I believe that it is not possible for the Opposition to have raised such a mountain of misunderstanding in their own mind if they had really followed the course of events. Even the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who always expresses himself so clearly, seems to have been deceiving himself in certain respects to which I shall shortly refer.

The difference between the two sides of the House is simply about means. What is the best means of arriving at the end which we all want, a just, peaceful and honourable settlement? I do not think, therefore, that it is very worthy of certain hon. Members opposite, as they did yesterday, but not, I think, today, because they disagree with the means which we on this side of the House think to be best, to accuse us of wanting war, to be "hell bent" on war.

If the right hon. Member for Easington were in his place, I should ask him whether he thought that hon. Members sincerely believed that. I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member opposite who sincerely believes that anybody on this side of the House wants war. I do not reciprocate. I am quite prepared to believe that the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends want peace as much as we do. I am not talking about the very few to whom the enemies of this country are ipso facto friends. I am talking about the bulk of the Opposition. I believe that those hon Members want peace as much as we do. I do not think that they are doing the Government justice about the means they are striving to take. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne today, and the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) yesterday, seemed to excuse the inefficacy of the United Nations by saying that it was the fault of the nations themselves, but I cannot see the difference. The United Nations stands or falls by the nations which make it up.

Mr. S. Silverman

I do not excuse the inefficacy of the United Nations upon that or any other ground. I say that we are in the beginning of a great and necessary adventure, and that we have to take the risks of inefficacy at the beginning if we want it to become more efficient later on. It is no good saying, "This is inefficacious and, therefore, we will have nothing to do with it." That is how the League of Nations was killed.

Mr. Longden

We are not saying that we will have nothing to do with it. We have never said that we will have nothing to do with the United Nations. What killed the League of Nations was simply the fact that it never had the power to assert its will. There is no group in the whole wide world which is less entitled to blame the League of Nations for that than the party opposite.

As the burden of my speech this evening was going to be—and will still be; it will not be a long speech—the necessity for an international rule of law, supported by the necessary sanctions, I naturally associate myself with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) in what he has said this afternoon. It would certainly be impertinent of me to try to explain his argument to the House, but as I understood it—and he is in his place to correct me if I am wrong—it was no indictment of Her Majesty's Government in which he was indulging. He was appealing to us to support our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, and that is precisely what Her Majesty's Government have done so far.

There are two methods open to the members of the United Nations to settle their differences, and one is provided for in Article 33. It is under that Article that Her Majesty's Government have so far tried to settle this difference, and I think that it is perfectly fair and natural that they should have done so. In our experience this method is so much more likely to be effective than the method provided for by Article 37. If action taken under Article 33 fails, then there is Article 37. I was horrified to hear the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) say that it would be a "climb-down" on the part of this country if, having tried its best to achieve a settlement under Article 33, it felt it proper to make an approach under Article 37.

There are at least four aspects of this problem—moral, legal, political and economic. I want to deal mainly with the legal aspect because, far from it being academic or dry as dust, I regard it as being the most important aspect in the long run. Unless we are able somehow, and soon, to establish a rule of law among the nations similar to the one which obtains within all civilised nations, backed by adequate sanctions, we shall never be free from the recurring threat of war.

In this instance it appears, as usual, that international lawyers disagree, but can there really be any doubt that President Nasser has broken a law of some kind? At least Professor Goodhart and Lord McNair, as I understand from their letters to The Times, think that there is no doubt about it—and they are good enough authorities for me. I hope that the House will bear with me while I explain why I believe that there has been a breach of law. The Agreement of 22nd February, 1866, made between the Khedive of Egypt and the Suez Canal Company, was confirmed a month later by the Sultan of Turkey.

In that Agreement all the earlier concessions, decrees and agreements since 1854 were summarised, and a system was laid down whereby the Company should operate the Canal. This Agreement was expressly referred to in the Convention of 1888, by which the nine Powers agreed to establish a definite system, destined to guarantee, at all times, and for all Powers, the free use of the Canal, and thus to complete the system for its navigation, which was set up in the Concession of 1866.

Lord McNair, than whom there can be hardly any higher authority, in his letter to The Times of 10th September gives it as his view that the Convention thus linked the Company with this "definite system", and that the agreement of 1866 is an "integral part" of the Convention. We know that Article 15 of the Agreement of 1866 declares that, after ninety-nine years from the date of the Canal's opening, unless a new agreement had been reached between the Company and the Egypian Government, the Concession would expire. That means that, apart from any new agreement, the Concession cannot expire before 17th November, 1968.

In the Treaty of 19th October, 1954, Great Britain and Egypt desiring to establish Anglo-Egyptian relations on a new basis of mutual understanding and firm friendship, —that sounds somewhat ironic now, but I supported that Treaty at the time because I genuinely believed, and still believe, in the sincerity of our intentions —expressed their determination "to uphold" the Convention of 1888, of which the Concession of 1866 formed an integral part, in Lord McNair's view.

Yet, on 26th July of this year, President Nasser who, far from having tried to make any new agreement with the Company, had, only a month before, expressed his complete confidence in it, declared it nationalised, thereby tearing up the Concession, which has still twelve years to run, and which he had himself endorsed only two years ago. If that is not a breach of international law, I do not know what is.

Mr. S. Silverman

Of course it is.

Mr. Longden

Let us suppose that it is. I develop my argument from there. One appreciates that a newly-independent State is jealous of its sovereignty, but every nation has to understand that sovereignty does not mean absolute power. If it does, then—according to Professor Brierly in "The Law of Nations"— sovereign States cannot at the same time be subject to law … and International Law is nothing but a delusion. That is quoted by Professor Goodhart in his letter of 11th August to The Times. He also quotes, from Oppenheim's "International Law : Peace": Like independence, territorial supremacy does not give an unlimited liberty of action, and one example of a limitation is stated to be by treaties with other States. Egypt had entered into treaties with other States, and President Nasser, after the usual habit of dictators, has unilaterally torn them up. Whether his motive is, as he has himself told us—for dictators are always very frank—to take a first step towards the establishment of an Arab empire from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, no doubt with himself as the new Caliph, I do not know, but I do know that acts such as this breed like rabbits, and, unless prevented, lead inexorably to war.

Then there is the question of nationalisation. Professor Goodhart's view is that it is clear that such a step cannot be taken if there is a specific agreement prohibiting it. But in the absence of such agreement he concedes that the problem is more difficult. Nevertheless, he adds : The argument that foreign property can be nationalised arbitrarily, because it is necessary to augment the national income, will, if accepted, destroy the good faith on which all international commercial relations must be based. Of course it will.

That brings me to the question, which has already been raised in this debate, of aid for under-developed countries. We hear a good deal about that from hon. Members opposite, yet some of them are apparently prepared to condone an act which, if it succeeds, must surely deal a mortal blow to such financial aid. Who will invest in territories if it is believed that independence may produce a Government which will scrap treaties, default on their obligations, and perhaps liquidate any assets which they have given as security?

This is an example of a case where seizure of other people's property, even accompanied by prompt and adequate compensation, is not good enough, because Egypt wants full and sole control as well as ownership, though the two could be separated, as we see in our own nationalised industries. But Egypt could not control the Canal. She is technically and financially unable to do so.

Egypt is incapable even of its day-today administration—there are only 30 out of 200 pilots and about half the workmen and technicians who are Egyptian—and she is certainly incapable of the absolutely essential maintenance and development of the Suez Canal. Therefore, until we can find other means of transportation and bring it into use—which could not be for some years—we should suffer widespread unemployment and shortage at home. So much for the legal and economic aspects.

The political aspect was admirably stated by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on 2nd August. Yet, in spite of that speech, in spite of the other speeches on that day, no sooner was the debate over than the air was rent with the clatter of chattering teeth. The New Statesman, and the Communists and crypto-Communists—not surprisingly— and the Manchester Guardian—more surprisingly—tumbled over each other—

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

And The Times this morning.

Mr. Longden

—in their panic to excuse Nasser and to cry, "My country … always wrong". They were like so many Kleinzacks, and the click-clack of their knocking knees could be heard all over the world, including, of course, in Cairo. If these craven voices really represent the British people today, which I deny—

Mr. Hunter

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Longden

May I complete my sentence? If these craven voices really represent the British people today, which I deny, all I can say is that we had better give up any pretence at attempting to be, a great Power.

Mr. Hunter

If a man wants to keep his fellow-countrymen out of war, you call him craven?

Mr. Longden

I call him craven in some cases.

I wish to turn for a moment to the moral aspect, because the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) wrote a letter to The Times about this. I wish to try to divine what motivates these people. She wrote in The Times of 10th August : This incident should have given us an opportunity to establish that morally we are second to none. She adds that millions of "inarticulate but informed people" in Asia and Africa are watching us. It is a good thing that they are inarticulate, or they might make a rude noise in the direction of the right hon. Lady.

Dr. Edith Summerskill (Warrington)

I did not realise that the hon. Gentleman was referring to my clacking teeth and knocking knees—

Mr. Longden

I was not.

Dr. Summerskill

—but if he reads that letter I think he will agree that it reflects the views of his right hon. Friends; it reflects the views of Lord McNair; it reflects the views of hon. Members opposite who have spoken, and if my advice had been followed by the Government in August they would not find themselves in the embarrassing position in which they are tonight.

Mr. Longden

What I was trying to point out to the right hon. Lady is that I do not think that at that stage of the negotiations then going on under one of the Articles of the Charter of the United Nations it was very advisable to make plain to the world that under no circumstances should we do anything—because that is really what it boils down to. What I want to ask the right hon. Lady—

Dr. Summerskill

The hon. Gentleman should read the letter.

Mr. Longden

I have the letter here. I have read it several times. Is it really immoral to refuse to defend one's legitimate rights and interests? Is that wrong morally?

Dr. Summerskill

The hon. Gentleman asks me a question. In that letter—

Hon. Members


Dr. Summerskill

May I finish?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

The right hon. Lady must not intervene unless the hon. Member gives way.

Dr. Summerskill

He has done so.

The hon. Gentleman asks me a question. In that letter, if he will read it— and the more I think of that letter the mere right I realise I was at the time— I was saying that the whole matter should be referred to the United Nations. That is precisely what the Government have to do, and the United Nations would see to it that our legitimate rights are defended.

Mr. Longden

The right hon. Lady has very much more confidence in that than I have. I quite agree with her that if the procedure under Article 33 fails then we shall have to go, but I do not think it is right—

Dr. Summerskill

That is my advice.

Mr. Longden

I think the right hon. Lady was giving her advice out of time, and I think that the now justly famous leading article in The Times of 27th August was absolutely right. All this betokens the "flight from responsibility" which is the curse of our age—the urge to postpone the evil day and to shuffle off our duties on to other shoulders which, so far, have proved incapable of bearing them.

The point I wish to leave with the House is this : if we are to achieve freedom from the fear of war, we have to establish a rule of law among the nations. On that, I think that probably everyone in the House is agreed. But it is the next step about which I feel that some people are not agreed, because the rule of law is futile unless it is backed up by effective sanctions. And sanctions mean force. And force may mean war. If that can be done, if this could be done through the United Nations, of course so much the better. But we must be prepared to give it teeth and to do our fair share of the biting.

Mr. S. Silverman

At the end of his speech this afternoon the Foreign Secretary said that we will not compromise. That means that the matter is decided. Does the hon. Gentleman mean that unless we can persuade the United Nations to give us what we want the United Nations will have failed?

Mr. Longden

I think that unless we can persuade the United Nations to—

Mr. Silverman

Allow us to be judge in our own cause?

Mr. Longden

No, not be judge in our own cause. But the one thing which is vital to us and all the other users of the Suez Canal is that its management should not be left to a sole country, and that country Egypt. That is not only our view, it is the view of the vast majority of all the users of the Canal—

Mr. Silverman


Mr. Osborne

No, not again. The hon. Member has made his speech.

Mr. Silverman

The hon. Gentleman has said that that is the view of the vast majority of the users of the Canal. Why, then, is he afraid that the United Nations will come to the wrong decision?

Mr. Longden

I have never said I was afraid that the United Nations would come to the wrong decision. What everybody must anticipate somewhat fearfully —if I may be allowed to use that word— is that the Russian veto would be used at the Security Council, and that is why I think that Her Majesty's Government are right to try the other method first.

I warn hon. Members opposite that if we purchase peace by unconditional surrender now we shall make our difficulties a thousandfold worse for ourselves in the Middle East and shall probably find ourselves defending Israel against the Arab League before we are very much older. I therefore support my right hon. Friends in the actions they have so far taken which, I believe, were strictly in accordance with the Charter.

I should like to take the opportunity, although my right hon. and learned Friend is not in his place, of congratulating the Foreign Secretary on his speeches in the Conference which appear in Command Paper 9853. For years we have done our utmost to be friends with Egypt despite every indication of her hostility to us. I am glad that The Times published Nasser's speech of 26th July in full in its issue yesterday. Of course, months of preparation must have been necessary before he walked in like that. Now, in collaboration with as many of the user nations as we can muster, I think we should warn him categorically that, subject to the United Nations agreeing— I cannot think that if it ever gets there it would go against us—any interference by him with the Canal would be resisted by force. I shall continue to support Her Majesty's Government in anything they do to that end.

7.52 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

By now what is the real issue dividing the two sides of the House is sufficiently clear. It is concerned with the circumstances in which military force might be used, or to put it quite plainly, the circumstances in which war might be waged. The Government, partly by what they have said and partly by what they have failed to say, have given us to understand—and given the world to understand—that there are circumstances in which, if they could not get the solution they want peaceably, they would wage war, even though that was in breach of this country's commitments under the Charter of the United Nations [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] There is no doubt about that; it was the inescapable inference from the television speech of the Prime Minister.

Although we cannot hold the Government directly responsible for some inspired statements that have appeared in the Press, when very large and normally responsible sections of the Press are saying proudly that this is an ultimatum and that we will "go it alone", surely some responsibility rests on the Government of the day, if that is not their view, to make clear to the country that it is not their view. Far more serious is the fact that right down to yesterday and today the Government have been and are still giving us to understand that there are circumstances in which they would use force inconsistently with our obligations under the Charter. [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] That has been brought out.

I trust that hon. Members who disagree with me will give careful attention to what I am now going to say. I know the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) cannot be present whilst all of us, one after another, refer to what he said, but I do not think that I am misrepresenting him in saying that he was sure that the Government were not going to use force except as provided for in the Charter. He was convinced that that was how the Government would behave, and he thought that our Amendment was unnecessary because he said he was sure that the Government would not use force, except in accordance with the terms of the Charter.

Do the Government agree with the right hon. and learned Member on that point? At the moment the right hon. and learned Member is in the position of an able and conscientious lawyer, trying to do his best for his client, who has decided that the best defence for the client is an alibi. He is urging the alibi as strongly as he can but, alas, cannot get the client to go into the witness box to give the necessary evidence in support of it. I am only speaking from the back benches but this surely is a matter on which the whole country must be clearly informed. We cannot be content with the mere repetition of prepared notes from the Tory propaganda office, such as we had from the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden), when faced with an issue of this kind.

Do the Government say what the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey said? Are they prepared to say that this country will not use force except in accordance with the terms of the Charter of the United Nations? They have not said that yet. The Foreign Secretary had an opportunity to say it during his speech, but did not take the opportunity, and I I do not believe that it will be taken. If it is taken, and if they now say, "We will not use force except in accordance with the terms of the Charter", they will say something different from what the Prime Minister said yesterday.

I know that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West is content to dismiss the half of the nation who support us as cowards with weak knees. It is a good thing he is not in charge of the affairs of the nation, for if he were and we were going to war he would realise what I expect more responsible people than he realise—that it is necessary to convince the nation as a whole and not just a few Tory propagandists on this point. Do the Government say, "We will not use force except in accordance with the terms of the Charter"? That is what we are waiting for them to say. It is a perfectly simple categorical question.

We all know now the circumstances in which the Charter justifies the use of force. The first is if there is explicit approval of the use of force by a judgment of the Security Council. Quite frankly, no one expects that situation will arise in this dispute in anything like the foreseeable future. Secondly, it would be justified as part of the right of individual or collective self-defence against armed attack on a State member of the United Nations.

Whatever one may say in condemnation of what Nasser has done, it is perfectly clear that he has not committed an armed attack on another State. I make no defence of what he has done. He has behaved in a crude, uncivilised manner, and without that decent respect for the opinions of mankind which civilised nations ought to show, but he has not committed an armed attack on a Member state. Therefore Article 51 of the Charter does not arise.

Sir L. Joynson-Hicks

The hon. Member has not dealt with the third point— he has dealt with the first two—the situation which would arise if the Security Council either failed to come to an agreement or decided that Nasser's action was not one with which it could deal.

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I am coming to that, but I would point out that if that happens there is nothing in the Charter to justify using force then. We are still bound by out obligations in the earlier Articles not to use force except in the two specific circumstances I have mentioned. By their failure to reassure the nation on this vital point the Government have got themselves, and unfortunately the nation as well, into a position—let me put it quite plainly—in which they have either to face a severe humiliation or we shall be engaged in a dangerous and a wicked war. The Government have arrived at that appalling result after starting from a situation in which they had much in their favour.

I have mentioned my condemnation of Colonel Nasser's behaviour. If the Government had handled this issue aright we should have been able, by setting an example of civilised behaviour, to mobilise much opinion on our side in contrast to his behaviour. Secondly, the Government have been provided with everything for which it is reasonable to ask from an Opposition in a time of international crisis. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition approved the precautionary measures which they had taken. He further said that he did not rule out the use of force in all circumstances, but that it must be in conformity with our obligations under the Charter. That is what the Government were entitled to, and which they got in full measure, and they heard the statement on where the Opposition stood.

The various attempts which had been made by the Foreign Secretary and other hon. Members to suggest that there has been any inconsistency between what my right hon. Friend said then and the attitude which we are taking now have been as clumsy as they have been disingenuous. The Foreign Secretary, with great pomp, said he would demonstrate the inconsistency. He recited to us what we knew already—all the things which my right hon. Friend said in August. We all waited to hear what were the inconsistencies, and at that moment the Foreign Secretary switched to another branch of the argument. That has happened in the case of every hon. Member opposite who has tried to follow this line, which is apparently the party instruction to hon. Members opposite in dealing with this matter.

The Government have landed us in this position. May I return for a moment to the very critical question of our obligations under the United Nations? I have emphasised that if the Government take the view which we are urging them to take and which the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey, with I am afraid more charity than discretion believes they are taking, but which they are not themselves prepared to say they are taking— in other words, if the Government say, "We will not use force except in conformity with the Charter," then they have to face the situation indicated by the hon. Member for Chichester (Sir L. Joynson-Hicks).

Suppose this matter goes to the United Nations. Let us suppose that there is the worst possible result from our point of view and from the point of view of mankind—that the matter drags wearily along, with the use of the veto and other procedural difficulties, and that no clear judgment or recommendation comes out of the United Nations. That, we know perfectly well, might happen.

We are not entitled to assume that it is bound to happen, and I think it is a great pity that when the British Foreign Secretary speaks in the House of Commons the only part of his speech which has real life is a thoroughgoing sneer at the procedure of the United Nations. We are not entitled to assume that the worst result will occur, but in order to meet the anxieties of some hon. Members opposite, let us suppose that the matter drags on and that we can get no clear recommendation, advice or settlement, that in the meantime the operation of the Canal proceeds with periodic crises, that we live in a state of nerves and crisis such as that which occurred during the Berlin airlift, and that ultimately we have to accept a solution which is far nearer to the wishes of Colonel Nasser than to the wishes of the 18 nations. I know perfectly well that that is what may happen if we say that we stand by our obligations under the Charter not to use force except in accordance with the terms of the Charter. That is what may happen. I am putting the matter at its worst.

I will not enter into the argument which is advanced as to exactly how many pennies that might add to the price of petrol. I sometimes think we must have taken leave of our senses if we start considering whether 1d., 2d., 3d. or 5d. a gallon on petrol is a sufficient justification for going to war.

To put it at its highest, if we cannot get a kind of solution which we feel— which I think most of the House feels— is just, this country may be put to very grave difficulties concerning its standard of life. Nobody will dispute that. The Government, if I understand them aright, go on from there to say, in effect, this : "We are entitled, in order to deliver ourselves from certain grave anxieties about our standard of life, to impose our will on a country possessing an important means of communication". They are saying, in effect, "The Suez Canal is so vital to our standard of life that if we cannot get an agreed settlement we are entitled to impose a settlement by force." If there is any sense at all in the Government's argument, that is, in effect, what they are saying.

I ask them to consider some of the repercussions to that. If the Suez Canal is vital to our standard of life because of the oil which comes through it, the oil itself is vital. Are we to go on and say, next, that we have the right to decide exactly how the oil is dealt with in its country of origin and to prescribe certain regulations as to how it shall be extracted, with the threat of force if they are not carried out? If we behave in that manner on the Suez Canal we invite every nation in the world which possesses some vital resources to feel that it may be in danger of having a solution by force imposed upon it.

Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)


Mr. Stewart

I do not propose to give way, as other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I shall refer to the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) in a moment, and I will give way afterwards, if necessary.

He made an interesting comparison between the Suez Canal and the Nile. The Nile is as vital to Egypt as the Suez is to us—possibly, I should have thought, more vital. Would that justify Egypt in saying, "We are greatly concerned about what happens in the territories in the Upper Nile Valley and about what happens to the waters of the Nile. We shall therefore prescribe a plan as to what shall be dons in matters of irrigation and control of the waters and, in extremity, we shall impose it by force"? If Egypt had the power to do that, and if she accepted the logic which we have had from the Government Front Bench, she would have the moral right to do it.

Sir J. Hutchison

That is precisely what Egypt has been doing for many years—claiming the right to say what shall be done there.

Mr. Stewart

She has been claiming that right, and this country has been denying that she has that right.

Sir J. Hutchison

That is where the hon. Member is misinformed. He must study the subject. In 1929 there was an exchange of letters referring back to this point and, surprisingly, agreement by this country that Egypt had such right.

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Member is not correct. No one has ever conceded to Egypt the right to say, "We shall determine what is to be done about the water in the Upper Nile Valley, and if we cannot get our way we are entitled to impose a solution by force". Yet that is what this country is saying about the Suez Canal.

I invite hon. Members opposite to consider the kind of balance sheet which has to be struck in this matter. I have suggested what may happen at the worst if the United Nations produces a most unhappy and unsatisfactory result. If we say, "Because we want to avoid that we will use force outside the terms of the Charter"—that is to say, not in defence against armed attack on ourselves and our Allies and with no recommendation of the Security Council to justify our action—what is the position?

Suppose the Government carry their military preparations and thinking to the point of considering a landing in Egyptian territory. If we look merely at the practical and not yet at the moral significance of that, it is quite clear that they would be engaged on an extremely risky adventure, that they would be engaged on it against the will of at least half and possibly three-quarters, or more, of the people of this country, and that they would be engaged on it with more than half of the population of the Commonwealth opposed to what they were doing and with the rest of the population of the Commonwealth not having ventured to express any kind of positive approval of the course on which they are engaged. That is the situation in the Commonwealth at the moment.

Further, they would be engaged on it not knowing what other allies might come to our side or what other enemies might appear by Egypt's side in the course of the struggle. A disgraceful attempt was made—I am bound to say this—by both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to suggest by implication, without using the actual words, that the United States was prepared to back this users' plan, if necessary using force. We now know that that is not so, and that this risky adventure would therefore be undertaken without, in the last analysis, the support or approval of the United States.

All that is dangerous enough, but I would add one other thing. Suppose all went well for the Government; suppose all the risks turned out on the right side, and they stood triumphantly astride the Canal, after a few weeks' campaign, with a prostrate Egypt, and able to make such arrangements for its future as they thought fit, the rest of the world having stood still while all those things happened, they might say that what they did was not dangerous, that it was successful.

There is, however, a graver argument against it than saying it was dangerous, and that is that it is wicked. To use force in the world at the present time, except in strict conformity with one's obligations under the Charter, is one of the most dreadfully wicked things that any nation or Government can do. It is always the duty of civilised men to try to act in accordance with such legal institutions as there are, but to defy them at a time in history when weapons of destruction are what they are today is the most evil thing that can be imagined.

If we won such a victory, in what sort of world should we live? It would be a world in which every nation would say to itself, "Egypt was battered down because she had not got some powerful ally who could get his blow in first". Every nation would be watching every other nation with a grim suspicion, and we should all know at the bottom of our hearts that, however long some nominal peace might last, all hope of really securing the rule of law in the world would have vanished, and the world would be inescapably on the way to destruction by atomic warfare.

In the acceptance of the rule of law, there are two things which a nation must observe. It must be prepared, even at the risk of loss of blood and treasure to itself, to back up a collective decision against an aggressor. I am proud that the Labour Party, when the test came in Korea, was prepared to take that course. But the other side of the medal is that when a nation is itself engaged in a dispute it does not commit aggression, however vexatious the process of law may appear to be. If we act outside the Charter on this matter, we make nonsense and a mockery of the sacrifices which this nation went through in the Korean campaign to try to establish the rule of law and open a door of hope for peace for mankind.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

I rather suspect that we on the Government side of the House are the victims of one of the biggest political confidence tricks for many years. The Opposition, both through the voices of hon. Members and through the journals in the country which support them—notably the Daily Mirror and the Daily Herald—has fostered the campaign that we intend to go to war without first fulfilling our obligations under the United Nations Charter.

What real evidence is there to support this charge at all?—[HON. MEMBERS : "The Prime Minister's speech."] The most careful reading of both my right hon. Friend's speeches, the one in August and the one yesterday, and also his broadcast, will disclose no sentence whatsoever which could possibly bear that interpretation.—[HON. MEMBERS : "By other means."]—We are concerned with—[An HON. MEMBER : "Does the hon. Gentleman remember what was said by the hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser)?"] I am not concerned with what an individual backbencher from this side of the House might say, any more than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is too bothered about what an individual backbencher from his own party may say. We are concerned with the actions of the Government. There is no action which has been taken or word said by Her Majesty's Government which could lead to the interpretation that we were going to war without fulfilling our obligations under the Charter.

Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite really suppose that more than 300 Members on this side of the House are not very conscious of the views of the people of this country? Are they really suggesting that every one of us on this side is prepared to throw overboard the solemn obligations to which we have subscribed over many years?

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

The Tories did it before

Mr. Cooper

No. I heard the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) this afternoon. I know he said what most of us on this side of the House would like to have had an opportunity of saying.

Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)

Except the Prime Minister.

Mr. Cooper

I have no doubt that in due time the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, will make such statements about Her Majesty's Government's policy as he may think fit. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly those who have in the past had some responsibility in government, must recognise that the Government must keep in their hands the timing of the making of announcements of policy.

It may be argued that they might have made a statement on this matter before. That is, at least, an arguable point, but what I am saying is that so far there has been no action taken and no word spoken by any Member of Her Majesty's Government which could create the impression either here or in any part of the world that this nation was going to war without first fulfilling its obligations under the United Nations Charter. That has to be said and repeated over and over again because, though I am sorry to have to say this in a matter of such grave national importance and urgency, there are hon. Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Opposition who are using this opportunity to smear the Conservative Party up and down the country.

May I compliment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) on what I thought was one of the finest speeches I have heard him make since I have been a Member of this House? He certainly restored, so far as the Opposition was concerned, some sanity and coherence to their case which was sadly missing after the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). I thought the right hon. Member for Easington presented his case very sensibly and properly.

This is a matter which ought to be above party politics. It is a matter on which we should try to get a united House, not only for our own satisfaction here at home but in order that we can give to the world an idea that in this matter at least we are standing together as a united country. I should like to say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that I hope sincerely that, either tonight or in the very near future, it will be possible for him to say words such as were indicated to him by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey. I would go so far as to say that if the Prime Minister is able to use such words tonight I have no doubt in my own mind that there will be no Division in this Chamber. I really think we should try to avoid a Division on this issue if at all possible.

Our nation depends for its livelihood on trade with foreign countries. Over the years we have built up the reputation that an Englishman's word is his bond. The enormous fund of good will which has been created by years of honest trading can be dissipated overnight by a wrong action taken at any time. We are at present discussing a very serious breach of international law. I would say to my right hon. Friend that we do not correct that breach if we ourselves are guilty of another breach.

I want to make one or two other comments about the proposed users' association. These, however, are matters of detail which it may not be possible to answer tonight. The creation of such an association seems to me to carry the germs of a good idea, something which, if there is co-operation and good will, could be worked out into something which could be for the benefit of us all.

It is, however, a voluntary body. It is not mandatory upon anybody to join. What happens if countries who are important users of the Canal but do not wish to join take their ships through the Red Sea and want them to pass through the Canal? To whom will they pay their dues? By whom will pilots be allocated?

Secondly, what is to be the position of the new association vis-à-vis the Egyptian Government in relation to the maintenance and development of the Canal? Is the users' association, perhaps by force, to put on Egyptian soil engineers and mechanics to maintain the Canal? Perhaps these are the points which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had in mind yesterday when he said that there must be some form of co-operation with the Egyptian Government. I do not want hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to sneer at the idea of a users' association. Somehow or other, and at some time, this question of the Suez Canal will be settled. This is a positive proposal which carries with it the germs for success.

The comments made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition on these new proposals were unhelpful and dangerous to its success. If this proposal fails, the responsibility for its failure can be shared in large measure by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Harold Davies

The hon. Member has accused my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition of making dangerous comments about the users' association. After the very careful questions which he has asked, and with which I agree, does the hon. Member not now realise that his own right hon. Friend, in telling the House that the U.S.A. would be a party to the proposal, misled not only the House of Commons but the whole world? I consider that to be a dastardly action at this dangerous juncture in history.

Mr. Cooper

My criticism of the Leader of the Opposition is that within a few moments of these proposals being made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, they were condemned out of hand. I am asking my questions tonight, some 36 hours after the original proposals were made. We have had time to think about them. We may have second thoughts about some of them, but at least we have had an opportunity of thinking about them.

I turn for a moment to the point just made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) concerning the Prime Minister's comments. Presumably, the hon. Member was referring to the comments by Mr. Dulles which appeared on the tape machine. I do not consider that they are inconsistent with what the Prime Minister has said. There have been two sets of statements from Washington. The first dealt simply with the situation which will arise if American ships are prevented by force from going through the Canal. Mr. Dulles said that in those circumstances the American Government would not shoot their way through the Canal. The second published statement, which was made at a Press conference, said quite clearly that the American Government wished to take part in the users' association, that arrangements were being worked out to get the plans working as soon as possible and that it was hoped that proposals would be available for discussion by next week. I see nothing which is inconsistent in those two things or which conflicts with anything which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Has the hon. Member been told by the Government what the House has not been told : that is, what action will be taken by our Government with our ships if Egypt refuses to let us go through the Canal?

Mr. Cooper

Unfortunately, I am not in the confidence of the Government to that extent. I have no doubt that in due course, when the arrangements for the association are worked out, we shall know something about it. All I am asking hon. and right hon. Members opposite to do is not to condemn the idea until we know more about it.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

We ought to have been told.

Mr. Cooper

We on this side would like to know much more about the details—of course we would. Undoubtedly, we shall know more in due progress of time.

What we have to do now is to try to close our ranks in this country and to let Colonel Nasser and all the would-be wrongdoers in other parts of the world realise that the lion's tail can be twisted just so far and that there are times when it is rather too much to expect us to be insulted beyond a certain point. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who is at the moment occupying the Government Front Bench, can have any conversation with the Prime Minister before he winds up the debate tonight, I repeat that if the Prime Minister can utter the words which so many of us on this side of the House would like him to utter, I am sure that this emergency Session of Parliament will end on a united note, which can redound only to the benefit and credit of this country.

8.26 p.m.

Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

Quite a few speeches have been made from the opposite side of the House during this debate which, as I understood them, challenged our sincerity in the things that we have been expressing. I have not been a Member of the House very long—only about 11 years, which is considerably less than many hon. Members have been here—but it has always seemed to me to be a bad rule to doubt the sincerity of people with whom one disagrees. Listening to the two Front Bench speeches this afternoon and appreciating the atmosphere after those two speeches were made, it seemed to me that the mere idea that the dispute should be referred to the United Nations was the equivalent of supporting Nasser. That, of course, is quite wrong. It is an idea which has been bolstered up by editorials in the Beaverbrook Press, etc.

I make no apology for referring once more to the speech by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), because it seemed to me that from that moment the Government were placed in a position very different from that which had been demonstrated when the debate began. The Government cannot afford to ignore a Member who has held high office in the Administration and who, in effect, says very diplomatically, "Look here, you people on the Front Bench, you have not got the country behind you. By and large, the country is solid behind first reference of the dispute to the United Nations."

Subsequently, I felt almost sorry for the Government Front Bench when Mr. Dulles's statement was recorded on the tape machine tonight. It seemed to me that that statement has completely scuttled the whole case put by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. Rhetorically, several Members from the back benches opposite have said in their speeches, "Do any hon. Members on the Opposition side really think that there are Conservative Members who want a war?" I will answer then with great sincerity : Yes, I do. Not only because they have said so. One makes due allowance for the heat of the moment and for the sort of things which are said on political platforms in moments of excitement, but in a state of affairs like this we inevitably find in the Conservative Party elements which cannot realise the whole meaning of modern warfare and still think that this dispute can be localised, and limited to a short, sharp war to trample down Nasser.

Reference has been made to the fact that he is a dictator. I do not dispute that. He is a small dictator of a smallish country. I do not think he is at all comparable with Hitler. That is my opinion. However, just as Hitler was the product of the social and economic conditions which followed the First World War, so I believe that Colonel Nasser is logically and inevitably the sort of man to come forward in the social and economic conditions of Egypt.

People have underestimated the conditions in that country. Those of us who have worked in Egypt know the deplorable social state of affairs there, which has been sustained by Administration after Administration in this country when we had a say in matters there, bolstering up a corrupt pasha-dom and a system of land tenure which in this century could not possibly be justified on humane grounds. I think that Colonel Nasser, or somebody like him, almost inevitably had to come along to get rid of the parasitical appendages like Farouk—and Fuad was not even an Egyptian, but an Albanian tribal chief brought in by some sort of deal done after the First World War.

I do not think the Government have given a statesmanlike lead on the question of oil. Whether the Government's policy succeeds or not, they know perfectly well that the next step will be an Arab demand for economic freedom to dispose of their oil as they want to. I should have thought that in the present circumstances the Government would have taken time by the forelock and have presented a case which would somehow or another have met the inevitable demands of the Arab oil-bearing countries. Because it is going to come. It is going to come as those small nations develop their economic strength.

After all, let us face it, the wealth which is being earned in those Arab countries now is certainly not permeating amongst the ordinary people. Far too much wealth is concentrated in feudal hands. I should have thought that we could have done a great job in our traditional rôle of trying to improve the conditions in those countries if we had presented a case which would in the end have resulted in a more equitable distribution of that wealth.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to France and to the positioning of French troops in Cyprus, poised, presumably, to take action if necessary in the Suez area. As a lover of France—I make no apology for it—I am very sorry that this action was permitted by our Government or suggested by the French Government. I believe that the time will come when France will say, "We helped you over Suez and Cyprus. Now you must help us over Algeria."

Do not let us forget that Algeria— I am afraid some of my hon. Friends will not like this, but this is what I feel—is, strictly speaking, a domestic problem of France. It is not a colonial problem in the accepted sense because the minority, if one can call it a minority, of the "colons" in Algeria is 1¼ million strong, and they are not settlers as there are settlers, for instance, in Kenya, but people whose families have been there for generations and who are in fact Mediterranean people. I think it has been a gross error of policy to permit French troops to go to Cyprus because it is tantamount to saying, as the French will construe it, I fear, that if they help us we shall be under a moral obligation to help them in Algeria, and I do not think anybody in this House wants to be involved in Algeria.

The statement of Mr. Foster Dulles has produced a new state of affairs. I do not know where the Government think they have friends in the Commonwealth, for every single Dominion seems to me to be either cool or actively hostile towards what the Government are saying and doing.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether the Conservative Party and the present Government are not listening too much to the Beaverbrook Press. I heard an hon. Member say just now that the Beaverbrook Press does not represent Conservative Party opinion. I cannot believe that myself. The Beaverbrook Press for a long time now has been pleading the idea of a Commonwealth based on a white European element and it has suggested, chiefly because of its hostility to India, that the Commonwealth should not be multi-racial and that we should get rid of those Dominions which are not of European origin.

Be that as it may, certainly India and Ceylon are hostile to the Government's policy. So far as I can judge, Australia is hostile. Certainly it is very divided, just as we are here; and Australians are very far from satisfied about the attitude displayed towards them by this Administration, which has always prided itself on being a great supporter of the Imperial theme.

I was talking to an Australian and, not too seriously, I was suggesting that Australians might like to shoulder a small proportion of the cost of our Monarchy, because I thought that it would be a good thing to have a better sharing of the time of the Monarchy. This Australian, a man of no small calibre, said "Good heavens, are we not maintaining your economy? All our foodstuffs exported to the United Kingdom are at a price 20 per cent. less on average than the current world market price." This is under an Administration which has been in office just over six years and now, in the atmosphere of this critical situation, we find that Australia, a major user of the Suez Canal so far as goods are concerned, was not consulted but was informed.

Is it to be supposed that the other countries, the small people, will take their lead from this Government and not from what Mr. Foster Dulles has said tonight? In the United Kingdom itself at least half the population appears to me to be hostile to the idea of armed intervention without reference to the United Nations or without its authority.

I made it my business in the last few days to go into the sort of places where one would expect to hear reactionary opinion. I looked in at a well-known hotel and had a whisky and listened to what the stockbrokers were saying. They do not like the Government, because they know that if the Government's policy of taking individual military action goes through they and the City of London will be the first to suffer. The Government can find no friends except among the paid party hacks of the Conservative Party. The handling of this problem right from the beginning was subject far too much to party considerations, and for a very good reason. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Government in acting in this way, but their political stock is low. They think that they are the best Government we could have, and there is nothing that rallies Conservative opinion so much as a little bit of judicious sabre rattling.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

The speech of the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) was, unfortunately, typical of many to which we have listened during this two-day debate. We have heard an acrimonious tone of debate from the other side of the House and, therefore, not unnaturally, also in answers from this side of the House.

The responsibility for that must lie not on anything that has happened in the last six weeks, since 2nd August, when the House heard a debate in a very different atmosphere, but on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, which set the keynote of the whole debate. It was a speech which I can only call embarrassing to our country, because I think it weakened the prospect of a peaceful settlement of this dispute, and embarrassing to everyone who listened to it because it showed the right hon Gentleman's abject capitulation to the Left-wing of his own party.

We all know what has happened since 2nd August. The very day after that debate the Tribune published a bitter attack on the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It said that he had outdone the Tories. From that day on gradually one has seen the leadership of the party opposite shifting its position, trying still to maintain a tenuous contact with the attitude and the opinions which it had expressed on 2nd August, but always trying to shift further to the Left to catch up with its own militant wing. [An HON. MEMBER : "The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey."] I thought the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) a most important speech, whereas the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, which set the tone of this debate, was frankly unfortunate.

This is a very important matter, and, while I believe that there is a difference between the two sides of the House, I think that that difference has been exaggerated and misrepresented fairly consistently throughout this debate ; and it is not in the public interest that this should occur.

The fairest way of dealing with the point of view of the party opposite will be if I take the speech of its Leader yesterday as setting it out fairly, and I will accept the challenge made by one hon. Member and try to follow out the charge of inconsistency, making that the theme of what must be a short speech as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wants to get up at five minutes to nine o'clock.

That speech consisted of two parts. The first was an attack on the Government for what hey had done during the past six weeks. That consisted primarily of a round-up of the Press, of reading Press extracts about what various newspapers, in bits of speculative writing, had suggested that the Government would do. On that I can only say that the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the only tied newspapers in this country are those of the Left-wing, the Daily Herald and the Daily Worker ; and that the papers which are commonly thought to support the Government—though their support is, naturally, variable—are free to say what they like. Indeed, it would be a very dangerous principle if it were the duty of the Government to disown every statement in a newspaper which they felt did not accurately represent the policy of the Government.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition then went on to the affirmative part of his speech, in which he reached the first inconsistency with what he had said on 2nd August. On 2nd August the right hon. Gentleman based himself on three points. I will come to his third point immediately, because he made it his main one. The right hon. Gentleman said, at columns 1620 and 1621 of HANSARD, that this was a part of the battle for the Middle East. He said that Nasser had raised this issue in a way meant to challenge the West frontally, and would say, "I have challenged them and won".

The right hon. Gentleman said this was a most important consideration, the importance of which should not be underestimated. He indicated that if something was not done about it the whole of the British position in the Middle East would deteriorate. He looked at the Government of Iraq and said that they might be replaced by one unfriendly to this country if Nasser were allowed to get away with his deliberate challenge to the West.

The right hon. Gentleman said something had to be done about it. What did he say had to be done about it? He said the first thing was to call the Conference of 18 nations and draw up a system of international control—not supervision or an advisory commission. The right hon. Gentleman's comparison of Nasser with Hitler and Mussolini has been referred to many times. Equally significant was what he said then and repeated yesterday, that he would not trust Nasser's word. On that the right hon. Gentleman has remained steady. He said that we had assurances from Nasser that he would respect the 1888 Convention, but he added that he did not suggest that we could trust his word on that. In fact, he said he knew that we could not. That is true, and both sides of the House agree about it.

If that is true, the situation begins to be clear. None of us wants war ; we all want some kind of negotiation. However, it is agreed on all sides of the House that the solution that we have to find is one where Nasser is tied by something more than his signature to a list of assurances. Nasser has broken enough treaties, and, as the right hon. Gentleman implied, another simple one of that kind is not much good to us.

We have to find a system of international control. Those are the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think he will want to go back on them. As the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) pointed out yesterday, we do not have complete security with a system like that. Unless we have large military forces on the Canal, we have not got absolute security. But we are not dealing in absolutes in this world. In this problem we have to get the best we can, something that is better than a mere assurance signed by a man whose word cannot be trusted. That is why the Government, with the express approval of the Opposition, selected the instrument of international control.

The negotiations have taken place, and they were not successful on that basis. What then? It has been suggested that the fundamental clash between the Government and the Opposition is the issue of the United Nations. I cannot agree with those broad terms. The Government have clearly been acting under Article 33 of the Charter. It has been pointed out already that it has not attracted much attention that Article 33 is not just one available alternative or optional clause but is a compulsory procedure. It reads : The parties to any dispute … which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements … I draw attention to these words : …or other peaceful means of their own choice. The procedure adopted until now has been under that Article. The procedure now proposed is also under that Article. The Government have been- advised that the users' association is legal in international law, and so it is a peaceful attempt to resolve the dispute. [Interruption.] I have read the words, but as there is a certain amount of noise in the Chamber the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) may not have heard them.

Negotiations is only the first word in a list of possible activities in Article 37, which concludes : and other peaceful means of their own choice. If the words "of their own choice" are held to imply agreement, I can only say that the 18-Power conference was not based on Egyptian agreement at all. I do not believe that these words in any way imply that the attempt at a peaceful settlement should have had at its inception the consent of both parties. That would not make sense.

Her Majesty's Government are now proposing to continue under Article 33, and the Opposition Amendment attacks them for doing that. It says, "No. The matter should be referred immediately to the Security Council." ; that is, under Article 37. Why are the Government to abandon all further attempts under Article 33? We have not heard any good reason why they should. The Government are being pressed to announce in advance a particular date or juncture at which they will abandon attempts at settlement under Article 33 and switch over to Article 37.

Why should they? It may be an expedient thing to do, but I should have thought that it may well be against the national interests and the interests of peace to do so. If this users' association does not succeed, why should the way have been blocked by a formal declaration by Her Majesty's Government that they will not try any other method under Article 33 before referring the matter to the Security Council under Article 37. What is meant by that?

I prefer to leave that to the judgment of those who, on Britain's behalf, are continuing these negotiations. [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] I am satisfied with the general assurance that the Government are acting in conformity with their duty under the Charter. What is their duty under the Charter? As I understand, it is that, after Article 33 is exhausted, they should act under Article 37, and here I come to what is perhaps the true difference between the two sides of the House. I do not know, but it is quite possible.

Suppose we have recourse to the Security Council, and that that recourse is frustrated by the veto of the Soviet Union. What then? The Leader of the Opposition gave his answer—an unexpected one to me—yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Well, if that happens, we shall have to build more tankers and send them round the Cape." [HON. MEMBERS : "Dulles said so."] The right hon. Gentleman said that if, as we are told by the Prime Minister, it would take a long time to build those tankers—and I think that a period of two or three years has been mentioned—the Canal is open in the meanwhile.

Is that the alternative policy which the right hon. Gentleman was describing—the policy of the alternative government? Is it the policy, if Russia blocks us with the veto in the Security Council, then we will go on using the Canal for two or three years, and then, when the tankers have been built, we will say, "You remember that dispute back in 1956? Now we are going to stop sending our tankers through the Canal, and we are going to send them all round by the Cape." Is anybody else ready to do that? [HON. MEMBERS : "Yes, Dulles."] Of course, the United States will send its tankers round the Cape immediately. The United States can do so, but Britain cannot.

Therefore, I say that the national interest in this matter is best served by doing everything in our power, by good will and ingenuity, to resolve the dispute under Article 33 of the United Nations Charter. If we are driven to using Article 37 by the failure of our earlier attempts, and if, by misfortune, that should be blocked, then surely it would be legitimate for us to say, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said yesterday — [HON. MEMBERS : "Time."] I shall not deprive the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition of his time ; I was told that he would not mind an extra few minutes.

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton said : I find this a little difficult. … If one says that force cannot be used except in pursuit of a decision of the United Nations, that is a general licence for lawlessness—the police are on strike, and, therefore, I must allow my house to be burned. That being the situation, surely Professor Goodhart is right; old international law stands, and people, in the absence of a real international authority, have to support their vital interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1956; Vol. 558, c. 120.] I will certainly not stand between the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the House, but I hope that what he has to say tonight will be better than what he said yesterday.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

This debate and the debate yesterday have abundantly justified the recall of Parliament. Whatever our views may be, I do not think that it will be denied that in some measure at least the debates have served to clarify the main issues in this matter and to indicate more precisely the differences between the parties and in the country. There is perhaps one exception to this, and that is the canal users' association.

On that matter I confess that I am still somewhat bewildered. During the course of the evening we have had Mr. Dulles's statement and I have been trying, in the short time available, to reconcile it with some of the things which the Prime Minister said yesterday. When I referred to this matter in the course of my speech yesterday I said that it was possible that this users' association would be valuable I said that if it were the purpose of the organisation to provide a bit of machinery for negotiating with Egypt, I should not object to it. I said that there were good reasons for having an association of user nations to conduct negotiations."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September. 1956; Vol. 528, c. 25.] I am glad to say that in some of his remarks Mr. Dulles interprets the association in that way. According to the report which I have before me, he said "such an association would act as agent for the users and exercise on their behalf the rights which are theirs under the Convention of 1888, and seek such cooperation with Egypt as would achieve the results designed to be guaranteed by that Convention." I do not think that there is anything wrong with that. He went on to mention some other things, to which we would not object, and said : It is normal for users to seek to work in association when rights which they possess jointly are in jeopardy. So we think it is wise that voluntary co-operation among users of the Canal should continue. So far as it goes, that is satisfactory. But the truth of the matter is that there seem to be involved in this proposal two very different ideas. In part, at any rate, of what Mr. Dulles says, and to some extent in what the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said last night, it seems to be envisaged that this users' association is a kind of alternative to the 18-Power proposals— an alternative about which negotiations are to take place with Egypt. Presumably, if that is the right interpretation, the idea would be that we should say to the Egyptians, "Here is another plan. You do not like the 18-Power plan ; here is an alternative. The alternative is that we, the users of the Canal, should employ pilots and you, the owner of the Canal, should look after its maintenance. We will work together, and there will be an arrangement about how much you get and how much we get of the dues," and so on.

If that is the correct interpretation, I would make these comments. First, it seems to me, technically, an extraordinarily difficult plan to operate unless there is universal membership among the users. If there were not such universal membership one could conceive of a very great deal of muddle and confusion arising. Secondly, it is perfectly clear that it could not possibly work unless it were agreed by Egypt, and full cooperation were conceded. If that were not the case, the dangers to the convoys and the danger of ships actually sinking in the Canal, through collision, would be very serious.

Indeed, it is inconceivable that without that co-operation the ships would get through at all. I understand that signals have to be operated and, quite apart from that, presumably the pilots will have to be lodged somewhere; there will have to be an office somewhere, and, as I say, without agreement with Egypt it seems to be a rather impossible conception.

But if that is the idea; if the Government's intention is genuinely to seek the agreement of Egypt, I would ask the Prime Minister to tell us tonight exactly how he envisages those negotiations being conducted. Reference has been made to Article 33, and the desire of the Government to continue to work under that. Is there to be, then, as it were, a repetition of the last four weeks? Are we to have, first, the conference of the 18 Powers, and perhaps some other Powers as well, working on the details of the matter? Is the conference then to send another mission, under Mr. Menzies or somebody else, to talk to President Nasser in Cairo? Finally, if this is the case, why are the Government so determined that these negotiations should be conducted in this manner—a manner which did not succeed on the previous occasion?

If this is the intention—and I am giving the Government the benefit of the doubt, for the moment—would it not really be better to go to the United Nations and put forward this proposal there, and conduct the negotiations at once under its aegis? I do not know exactly what relationship the new association is supposed to have to the United Nations, but that is something which could be more easily dealt with if the negotiations were conducted in that way.

I must also ask one other question. Do the Government really feel that this plan is superior to the 18-Power proposal? If they think it is, do they also think that it is more likely to be accepted by President Nasser? Does it in fact cover the aims set out in the 18-Power proposal, which are agreed everywhere as our aims, and accepted also by Colonel Nasser; our concern, as users, with charges ; with the development and maintenance of the Canal, and with free passage and no discrimination?

I can see some connection between the aim of free passage and this plan, but it does not seem to have any special relationship to the other aims which we must have in mind. It leaves the development of the Canal entirely, so far as I can see, to Egypt, which therefore does not, I should have thought, meet the requirements of the Conference in London. Perhaps the Prime Minister can help me and help us by telling us a little more about that.

But while that is one idea, there is also a totally different one implied in this plan, and certainly this totally different one was the impression which the Prime Minister gave us yesterday afternoon. He said— he implied at any rate, if I may say so to him—that it was the intention of those putting forward this plan to go ahead at once without Egypt; without, necessarily, negotiations; without any agreement; and that if Egypt refused to co-operate, if Egypt refused to allow the pilots on the ships coming through to go through the Canal, if Egypt would not accept the plan that the dues would be paid to the association, then, so we learned from the Prime Minister, that would really be a challenge.

Egypt, he said, would be in breach of the 1888 Convention, and there is no doubt at all that he gave the impression —not only to hon. Members on this side of the House but, I think, to many hon. Members on the other side—that that would be, first, a better justification for taking the matter to the United Nations —if it were so taken—and, secondly, a justification for the use of force. That is the impression which he created, and hon. Members cannot deny it.

This evening we heard that Mr. Dulles has said that "the United States does not intend to shoot its way through the Suez Canal if Egypt tries to block the passage of United States ships travelling under the auspices of the proposed new users' association." He said that instead it has already been decided to take the United States tankers cut of "mothballs"—the reserve fleet—and divert the oil and other traffic round the Continent of Africa, if anything should happen to deny passage of the Canal. That seems to me to suggest that the name of the association should be changed to the "Cape users' association."

I must ask the Prime Minister to tell us tonight whether he will say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that they, too, have no intention of shooting their way through the Suez Canal. The country and the world will be waiting for his answer to that.

Mr. Dulles has said that the United States will send its ships round the Cape. Personally, I think that that is a very sensible proposal—I even suggested it myself yesterday. He also said that the cost would not be economically catastrophic. He is perfectly right, it would not be. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East challenged my figure on the addition to the cost of oil. I said 1d. a gallon. I have made further inquiries and I wish to correct that. The latest information I have is that it is 1½d. a gallon. I do not think that that is economically catastrophic. Indeed, if I may remind hon. Members who have seen it, the Financial Times this morning gives a break-down of the cost of petrol, and the total cost of ocean transportation is 2¾d. a gallon.

Mr. Dulles said something else at his Press conference. He said that the Suez problem, he believes, is "solvable if it is reduced to the question of practical details and taken out of the realm of national pride and emotions." Those are very wise words and I commend them to the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS : "They apply to Egypt."] Certainly, of course they apply to Egypt, but they apply to us as well and we happen tonight to be particularly concerned with what Her Majesty's Government are going to do.

I wish to revert to the main issues of the debate. Many have said—I said so myself yesterday and a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have agreed—that the issue in this debate is not whether we think Colonel Nasser a good or a bad man, or whether we think what he did in nationalising the Canal was or was not justified. If there be any doubts about that, a reading of the Government's Motion and our Amendment to it should make it plain that that is not the issue. The Foreign Secretary, in the opening of his speech today, referred to my speech on 2nd August and chided me for not having repeated what I said on that occasion. If I may say so, I think he was not entirely fair to me. I began my speech by saying that I stood by everything I said on that occasion. I did in fact draw out exactly the same reasons for our objections to Colonel Nasser's action as the Foreign Secretary did in this afternoon's speech.

If it is of any interest to hon. Members I will repeat it. I stand by what I said on that occasion about the implications and the nature of that action of Colonel Nasser. I want to make it perfectly plain that we on this side of the House fully realise that Colonel Nasser can be very dangerous, that we understand there are threats involved in this but so far they are threats only.

I think there are two particular aspects of what Colonel Nasser has done to which we have to pay attention. There is, first, the more obvious one, the threat —it is only a threat, but it is a threat— to the users of the Canal lest they might not be able to exercise the rights to which they are entitled. Our Amendment, of course, covers that point completely. I do not think I need go over the rights; I have already mentioned them this afternoon and there is no dispute about that.

But I want to ask the Government if they have come to the conclusion that negotiation on this matter is impossible? If they believe it to be possible, are they prepared to negotiate? I am not talking specifically about the users' association ; I am talking about the whole position of the users of the Canal and the aims which were specifically laid down in the 18-Power proposal. If they are prepared to negotiate, will they negotiate under the United Nations?

There is, however, a second aspect to this action of Colonel Nasser. Perhaps the real difficulty here is the fear expressed by several hon. Members on the benches opposite that we cannot afford to allow President Nasser to "get away with this." I do not think anybody has defined precisely what they mean by that phrase, but I do not propose to question it. Let us accept that it means in some way or other that the disturbance to conceptions of international contract and the like which were involved in President Nasser's action, and perhaps the threat to the Middle East to which I referred on 2nd August, must somehow or other be avoided and we must not allow the man who has done that to get away with it, as it were, without any reaction—without any difficulty whatever.

I do not disagree that there is force in that argument. I think that this, together with the comparison made by hon. Members with the pre-war situation in Germany, is really the reason why they take a different view from us on the use of force.

I understand this attitude of hon. Members, or rather the emotions which they feel about the pre-war situation, but I want to say straight away that in my view a strict comparison with our relations with Hitler Germany before the war does not apply. It is perfectly true, as the Prime Minister said, that in my speech I said that the words which Colonel Nasser used reminded us of Hitler. They do. That is quite true. But it does not mean that the whole situation is by any means the same.

I want to give the Prime Minister, if I may, three reasons for which I think there is a difference. First of all, there is not the slightest doubt that what we were objecting to in the case of Germany was the use of armed force against frontiers or going into territories into which she was not entitled to go, starting with the Rhineland and going on with Czechoslovakia and Austria. Secondly, in the case of Germany we were, after all, dealing with a nation which I think most of us regarded as certainly the strongest military power in Europe, if not in the world. Of course, we cannot say the same of Egypt. I have already said, I agree, that there are dangers to us, but let us keep a sense of proportion in this.

The third point of difference which I want to make is that at the time of the occupation of the Rhineland and the later events which we remember all too well, the League of Nations was already largely moribund. It became moribund when it failed to enforce effective sanctions against Mussolini on the invasion of Abyssinia. I must add, in all fairness, that the League of Nations, not having the United States or Russia as members, or in fact Germany, was not in the same position as is the United Nations today I may be optimistic but I believe that the United Nations is still far from moribund.

On the wider issues of Colonel Nasser and letting him get away with it, I think we must ask ourselves what it is precisely that we are frightened about. What do we think he is going to do? I will give at any rate one answer to that, and I have given it many times in the past. There is a danger—of course there is—that at some time he will launch a war against Israel. We cannot deny that. But what is the right answer? If that is what the Government fear, surely they should do what we have again and again pressed them to do—allow Israel to purchase arms.

Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)


Mr. Gaitskell

I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give way, but I have little time. He knows my views on this ; goodness knows, I have expressed them often enough.

If that is the anxiety of hon. Members —and I know it is and I think I understand it—I must ask them this question : do they believe that the use of armed force and going to war with Egypt will also solve this problem? That it may lead, that it probably would lead, to the fall of Colonel Nasser is no doubt true, but as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, it cannot possibly be regarded as solving the problem of the Middle East as a whole. On the contrary, there is no doubt that if, in defiance of the Charter and with public opinion against us, we were to take this action, we should be creating for the future an even worse position than we have today.

There is one other danger which we must not overlook. We talk about the anxieties which we have that Colonel Nasser will gain a prestige victory. Let us be careful that by our actions we do not give him an even greater prestige victory.

Finally, is there not another way out even to meet hon. Members who feel that we have to do something to prevent Colonel Nasser from getting away with it? I venture to say that there is another way out. I venture to say that we should not suppose that negotiation will fail to stop Colonel Nasser. On the contrary, I think there is a possibility of successful negotiation which may even now—though, goodness knows, it is rather late—involve some loss of face by ourselves and the West but also some loss of face by Colonel Nasser as well. There have been times during the last four weeks when world opinion was undoubtedly moving in favour of the users of the Canal. I think the London Conference did a lot to help that. If we can get world opinion more on our side, Colonel Nasser himself is not in a position to ignore it.

Secondly, if I am asked again what will I do if Colonel Nasser refuses to negotiate, if he is obdurate and unwilling to listen to any plans, I say that I believe that the line taken by Mr. Menzies in his letter to Colonel Nasser and the line adopted by Mr. Dulles today—that we should then use the alternative route round the Cape and should develop additional pipelines— will have a salutary economic effect upon Colonel Nasser.

The Foreign Secretary complained that the United Nations was a place where action was too slow, and that if we took the dispute there, there would be weeks and weeks before anything was done. What is wrong with weeks and weeks elapsing without war? The implication of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement was, of course, that we were losing ground all the time as the weeks went by. I do not believe that for one moment. There is indeed only one explanation of that point of view. We are losing ground if it is the Government's view that we ought to go to war and they want to keep the temperature up; but if they take the view that we want a peaceful settlement, why should they not take the view, as I do, that time is on our side and that as Colonel Nasser comes to realise the foolishness of his point of view, to which the Prime Minister himself referred yesterday, his prestige may indeed suffer far more seriously as a result than it would from any threats of force by us?

But this means something else; it means that we must then behave in a way which wins the support of world opinion over to us. It is precisely to this end that the last part of our Amendment is directed. First, we say that the dispute should be referred to the United Nations for action now. That would dispel doubts which have been sown about the Government's attitude to the United Nations. Secondly, it would get us in first. Let us be sure that we get in as a plaintiff and not as a defendant. In the third place, I believe our case is a good one, and I believe the Government think the same. Do not let them prejudice it in any way by unnecessary actions.

The next thing we must do, and we ask for it in our Amendment, is this. The Government should refrain from any form of provocative action. There is one simple thing which can be done tonight. I have already mentioned it. The Prime Minister can say that, as far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, they will not try to shoot their way through the Canal. That would be a help. There are a good many other things which could be done as well, but that is the immediate danger of the situation, and I ask the Prime Minister to remove any misapprehensions, if they are misapprehensions, in the House and in the country by making that perfectly plain.

The third thing we ask for is a declaration that force will be used only in accordance with our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations. I ask the Government in fact to disavow the stories which have appeared in the Press quite frequently in the last few weeks that they intend to impose a solution by force.

During the course of this debate, we listened to a very remarkable speech by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). I do not think that the Prime Minister heard the speech but I hope that he has been told what it contained. I ask him to endorse what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that, as far as he was concerned, he would not support force outside our obligations under the Charter. That is all we are asking.

In another place yesterday, Lord McNair, the President of the International Court, made an immensely impressive speech. Under the Rules of Order I cannot quote from it, but I must say that the criticism from this eminent lawyer of what the Government have done so far, his description of the change of the law in relation to force over the last 50 years, his analysis of the Charter and his conclusion that there was no justification as far as he could see for the threat or the use of force to impose a solution, seems to me to be something that the Government cannot possibly ignore.

Therefore, I now beg the Prime Minister to seize his chance, to say that he will ask the United Nations for action and to give us an assurance that he too, like Mr. Dulles, has no intention that we should shoot our way through the Canal. Above all, I ask the Prime Minister to declare that he accepts the word of Lord McNair and that the Government have no intention of using force except in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

In 1945, when the Charter was being ratified by this House, the Prime Minister declared that the United Nations was humanity's last hope. Let him, by his words and his deeds, strive to sustain and encourage that hope and not join in seeking to extinguish it.

9.27 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

I will certainly deal in my remarks with the points which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has made about our attitude both to the Charter and to the United Nations. I hope I may be forgiven for saying that in my view, naturally, every step which we have so far taken, as I will strive to show, is in accordance with the terms of the Charter. If I had not thought so, I would not be standing at this Box tonight.

First, however, I must deal with one or two other points that the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday after my speech. I was genuinely sorry to hear him say that many hon. Members did not want a settlement at all. That really is unworthy, and it is a cruel and unjust charge. It echoes the 1951 accusations of warmongering.

The right hon. Gentleman might consider that our whole record over the last five years emphatically denies it. A peaceful settlement was our aim in Korea, in Indo-China, in Trieste and in Persia, and we got them all. We have no record in that respect of which to be ashamed—

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)


The Prime Minister

—and it is our aim in this endeavour and in this effort too.

I find it difficult to believe that there are many countries which will believe, or many people in this country who will imagine, that we have now turned our backs on that road, a road which we have been treading for some time, not without a measure of success.

It sometimes seems to me, and I dare say it does to others of my generation, that ever since the first years when one was very young and in uniform and in war right up to the present time, one has always had war or the threat of war as the background to one's whole life. I would beg the House to believe that, that being so, there can be no conceivable thought in our minds that that is the kind of thing we want to repeat in one way or another. I know it is true of every part of the House of that generation and of others. I think we may start by accepting that peace is the aim of all parties.

But I must add this. If my long— someone generously said the other night my too long—span of public life of 35 years has taught me anything it has taught me this. I do not believe that true and lasting peace can be bought at the price of the surrender of rights and legitimate interests to outside pressure and force. I have found that before.

I do not think I have ever inflicted a quotation of my own upon the House, but I am going to do so tonight, from something which I said when I parted with my Cabinet colleagues in 1938, because I think it still applies. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman's passage about how to analyse the threat of Nasser, and I want to comment on it because it is part of the most important element of our discussion tonight. What I said then was this : I do not believe that we can make progress in European appeasement"— Europe is still there— …. if we allow the impression to gain currency abroad that we yield to constant pressure … progress depends above all on the temper of the nation, and that temper must find expression in a firm spirit. That spirit, I am confident, is there. Not to give voice to it is, I believe, fair neither to this country nor to the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938 ; Vol. 332, c. 49–50.] I do not think that that is menacing language in the temper of the situation in which we are now. It is what many of us feel. The majority of the country did not agree with me then. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) agreed with me, and he tells me he agrees with me now. But we have, I believe, all of us in all parties learned our lesson since then. Do not let us, I implore the House and I implore the country, unlearn that lesson now.

Let us have a look at what the right hon. Gentleman rightly said about the proper perspective in which to put what Nasser stands for at the present time. The hon. Member for Coventry, North, (Mr. Edelman) said in his speech yesterday something which I thought was absolutely true for the present time. He said this : The Suez crisis is not the—I repeat 'the' —crisis. If this crisis is solved—or rather if this crisis is allowed to settle itself in conformity with the present attitude taken up by Nasser, then, indeed, it will be merely the beginning of a whole series of crises of different kinds. I think that it was Trotsky who once spoke of 'permanent revolution'. I think that the crisis which confronts us today will merely become the beginning of a permanent crisis which may well end in disaster for all of us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September. 1956; Vol. 558, c. 112.] I agree with every single word of that statement, and I really do not think that anybody who has read Nasser's speech when the Canal was seized could really doubt the force of the hon. Gentleman's observation or could really pretend that that was a speech about nationalising anything at all. It was an assault on the Western Powers, on their economy, on their position in the world. And what will the next step be? I join with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in asking what the next step will be if Colonel Nasser is allowed to succeed in the action he has already taken.

I have no doubt what it will be. I do not think the House has any doubt— Israel. "The stooge of Imperialism" Nasser described it, in the very speech in which he nationalised the Canal. That is what he called it. Do hon. Members really believe that if Colonel Nasser has his way in this business of the Canal we who have undertaken these obligations under the Tripartite Declaration—within and without the United Nations be it noted—and have reaffirmed, and reaffirm tonight, our intention to discharge them, do they really believe that we shall be in the same position to do so then as we are today, or as we were a few months ago?

Does the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition really think, to use his own phrase, that if Colonel Nasser "gets away with it" our position will still be such that we can do as much militarily to go to the help of Israel if she is attacked as we can today? [An HON. MEMBER : "Why not?"] I can only give the House my own forecast. I have the responsibility to do it. My own forecast is that if the "getting away with it" takes place, then there will be such a rush of power, such a haste and hurry to get on the bandwagon of the Egyptian dictator as has not been seen in our generation in respect of any country at all.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am not saying that we should let Colonel Nasser get away with this entirely. [Laughter.] I really must ask hon. Members to try to follow the argument. What I have argued is that the threats of force, far from not letting him get away with it, are increasing his prestige all the time. I am asking that the Government should pursue a different and peaceful method, with the full support of world opinion. Why will the Prime Minister not answer my question? Will the Prime Minister say why the British Government continue to refuse Israel the arms which she needs for self-defence?

The Prime Minister

I was not discussing the question of arms for Israel. I was discussing our own national obligations, which still exist. I am not prepared to make a public statement on anything that may be happening on the other account at the moment, but I should like to say this on this very topic. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the moving of troops, to what other people have called our threatening attitude. What we have done in this respect the right hon. Gentleman says is uniting the East against us. There is no evidence that we have from those lands of anything of the kind. It shows rather the contrary—what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said last night—that there is a watchfulness and a concern, and by no means all the Arab lands are looking forward to a success for Col. Nasser. Some people in their speeches seem more eager for it than the Arab lands themselves.

Then there is the charge which we get so often, not made now, about Western imperialism. There is just one fact about which I would like to remind this House. It is not widely known. We are charged by Nasser and others with Western imperialism, but as regards the Owen Falls, does the House know that within their control, quite rightly—it was done by the Socialist Government in 1949, as the right hon. Gentleman will remember—we then stipulated that the Electricity Board there should regulate the discharges to be passed from the dam on the instructions of the Egyptian resident engineer?

That is still going on. The dam is on British territory. It is owned by a British colonial Government. Egypt is a user and she is not sovereign over the dam. And yet, by peaceful agreement, Britain submits to Egyptian user control of a project vital to Egypt. There is no suggestion that it is in any way derogatory to British sovereignty that Egypt has this special position. It seems to me that the parallel with Western requirements in respect of the Canal is very, very close indeed.

Now may I mention one topic before I come to the right hon. Gentleman's questions, and that is about the pilots, to whom he referred in his speech yesterday. I want to say a word more so that their position may be clearly understood. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that we should renew the appeal to the pilots asking them, despite their difficult conditions, to do everything they could to keep the Canal open.

Mr. Stokes

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, or even the right hon. Gentleman whose voice I recognise so well, fully understood the conditions under which the pilots are working. In the first place, since the seizure of the Canal they have been overworked because the pilots on leave have not been willing to return, and those who were left have had to carry on without any prospect of getting their annual leave at all. Secondly, the Egyptian Government have not only subjected these pilots to threats of imprisonment, but they are working in a police State, with all that that implies. I need not go much further. I am sure the House will feel that it would not be right for Her Majesty's Government to ask British pilots to continue to endure these intolerable conditions for more than a very limited period.

The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government were deliberately withdrawing these men in order to impede the operations of the Canal. I can assure him that that is not so. The Government have not asked these men to withdraw from their employment. On the contrary. As I have said, twice we asked them to stay and they accepted, but they are not under our control. They are free men, and many weeks ago they declared that they were willing to go on only until the end of these discussions. I think I ought to let the House know that the Minister of Transort this morning received representations from the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers' Association, to which organisation the British Canal pilots belong. I believe it is technically a trade union. The following points were made.

First, that British pilots were physically at the end of their tether, due to the very difficult working conditions and long hours to which they have been subjected. It was the view of the Chairman of the Association that whatever representations had been made to them by the Government, or any Governments, they could not have stayed longer at their posts ; that they have entirely lost confidence in the new Egyptian Canal Company and its capacity to operate and maintain the Canal at a proper level. I thought I ought to say that, in order to clear up any doubt that this is due to action on our part.

Now I would like to come to the main points which the right hon. Gentleman put to me in his speech. First, however, I think it would be well if I said something on the topic of the users' association. In that connection I would like to give the House and the right hon. Gentleman some information.

First I think it should be made clear to the House that the offer of the Menzies commission so-called, the work of the 18, still stands. The offer has not been withdrawn, and it is still open to acceptance by Egypt. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will welcome that. In that sense, therefore, this is not an alternative proposal. This is, as I said yesterday, I thought quite clearly, a provisional plan to meet an immediate situation. In that respect, the British, United States and French Governments are in complete agreement. The United States Government will participate. I shall have a word more to say about that in a moment.

We are in the closest touch with the two other Governments, and I have no doubt that there will be a meeting in the next few days to decide how to put the plan into effect. The meeting will not be long delayed. I gave the House advance information of our intentions yesterday, because as the House was meeting I thought that the explanation was due to it.

I want now to deal with one of the things on which I was challenged last night—I do not complain of it—particularly by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) when he wound up for the Opposition. I was very much accused in respect of what the position would be if the Egyptian Government did not take measures to ensure the execution of the 1888 Convention. That was the point; everyone was worked up about it.

I should like to read what Mr. Dulles said about this. He replied : if the Egyptian Government sought to interfere with the operations of the organisation or refused to take the necessary measures for ensuring the execution of the 1888 Convention, as it was bound to do, that would be a breach of the Convention by Egypt. That is exactly what I said last night. Mr. Dulles added : In this event, the parties to or beneficiaries of the Convention would be free to take steps to assure their rights through the United Nations or other action appropriate to the circumstances. That is almost verbatim what I told the House.

The right hon. Gentleman asked, what other action? I think I made that clear too. I said that if they did this, then the Egyptian Government would be once more—this was my phrase—in contravention of the 1888 Convention. [Interruption.] That is the American Government's view and ours. Mr. Dulles is a good lawyer, perhaps almost as good as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), though I do not know. That is the view that he holds, and that is the view which has been stated. If that happens, Egypt will be once again, according to our view, in breach of the Convention, and the case to be brought against her at the Security Council, or by a similar method, will thereby be infinitely strengthened. [Interruption.] That is certainly one of the purposes which Mr. Dulles and we have had in mind.

I want for a moment to go through the issues, because before we vote I think we ought to see how far apart we are, where we are apart, and where the assurances which I can give—which I am afraid will not be new—or the explanations I can give may meet the House. First, there are certain things that we are agreed upon. We are agreed that the action of the Egyptian Government in seizing the Canal was arbitrary. There is no need to deal further with that. If the Egyptian Government refuse co-operation, then that strengthens the case for the Security Council on our part.

Mr. Gaitskell


Hon. Members


Mr. Gaitskell

Hon. Members ought really to want to hear the Prime Minister's answer to this point. Is he prepared to say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that they will not shoot their way through the Canal?

The Prime Minister

I said that we were in complete agreement with the United States Government about what to do. I read out from this paper, and I said—[HON. MEMBERS : "Answer."]— and I repeat that the first action—I said this yesterday—was to ask the Egyptian Government. We cannot do this without some co-operation with the Egyptian Government. We propose to ask for that co-operation. We have said here that if they do not give it, they are, in our view, in default under the 1888 Convention, but if they are so in default, we should take them to the Security Council—[Interruption.]—

Mr. Speaker


The Prime Minister

I wish now to deal with certain other points which have been raised in the debate. I think the first and the most important of them is that there has been agreement on the various stages that have been taken up to and including the actions of the London Conference and Mr. Menzies' mission out there. Now we come to the first of all the points of difference, and I come back again at once to this question of the Security Council. I hope that the House will give me five minutes in which to make an important point in this connection.

The first point is when and how we should make use of the Security Council of the United Nations. I ought to begin by making it clear to the House that we have been acting in strict conformity with United Nations procedure for the past seven weeks. We have been following the course enjoined by Article 33 of the Charter to seek, first of all, a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation.. Our efforts have not succeeded, and we have now taken the further step, as I told the House yesterday, with the French Government, of informing the President of the Security Council of the situation which has arisen. That action was taken in accordance with Article 35, which enables us, if we want to, to submit any matter rapidly to the Security Council.

The real difference between us is not so much one of substance on the issue as one of timing. The Opposition have asked questions which have been repeated again tonight. They have said "Submit the question to the Security Council now". I should like to remind the House that we are not handling this problem entirely on our own. We are dealing with it in association with allies and with a number of other countries too. I believe that it is the wish of the House that we should act in concert with them.

As I told the House yesterday, and I repeat now, I must therefore ask the House to allow the Government to judge, in the light of their continuing consultations with other Governments, what is the best moment at which it may become advisable to have recourse to the Security Council. Our letter which we sent to the President yesterday is a sufficient indication of our intentions.

There are certain parallels about the delay. We have heard a great deal about the delay in going to the Security Council. Some hon. Members of this House may agree with me that probably the most critical issue since the war, apart from this one, was the Berlin air-lift. I have here the speech which Mr. Bevin made when he was asked to take the matter to the Security Council. He said this : There have been suggestions that the Berlin question should be referred to the United Nations, but the Charter requires that several steps should be taken before this matter could be referred. It has to be dealt with between Governments as the first step, and the point made by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington"— and that happened to be me— of dealing with it in Moscow at the appropriate moment is very much in our minds." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 2233–4.] Look at what happened. I asked that it should be dealt with in Moscow; not in the United Nations but in Moscow. This is the point I want to make. Three and a half months passed before the Labour Government then took that vitally important issue anywhere near the Security Council. Having said that, I make no point of the fact that it was immediately vetoed by Russia—straight away.

I want finally to deal with a question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) and repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption.] We are not the aggressors now.

Mr. Callaghan


The Prime Minister

I have been asked this question by the Leader of the Opposition. Even the aggressor is allowed to reply. I want to deal with the question : would Her Majesty's Government give a pledge not to use force except after reference to the Security Council? If such a pledge or guarantee is to be absolute, then neither I nor any British Minister standing at this Box could give it. No one can possibly tell what will be Colonel Nasser's action, either in the Canal or in Egypt.

Nevertheless, I will give this reply, which is as far as any Government can go : it would certainly be our intention, if circumstances allowed, or in other words, except in an emergency, to refer a matter of that kind to the Security

Council. Beyond that I do not think that any Government can possibly go.

But I repeat that the Government must be the judge of the circumstances. That is something that no Government, no Executive, can share with anybody else, either with Parliament, or any other. I am confident that Parliament itself, on reflection, will believe that to be sound doctrine.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question : —

The House divided : Ayes 321, Noes 251.

Division No. 278.] AYES [9.58 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Dance, J. C. G. Hirst, Geoffrey
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Davidson, Viscountess Holland-Martin, C. J.
Alport, C. J. M. Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery) Holt, A. F.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hope, Lord John
Amery, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Deedes, W. F. Hornby, R. P.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Digby, Simon Wingfield Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Arbuthnot, John Dodds-Parker, A. D. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence
Armstrong, C. W. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Ashton, H. du Cann, E. D. L. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Howard, John (Test)
Atkins, H. E. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Duthie, W. S. Hughes Hallett, Vioe-Admiral J.
Baldwin, A. E. Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Barber, Anthony Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick&L'm'tn) Hulbert, Sir Norman
Barlow, Sir John Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hurd, A. R.
Barter, John Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hutchison, SirIanClark (E'b'gh, W.)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Errington, Sir Eric Hyde, Montgomery
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Erroll, F. J. Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Farey-Jones, F. W. Iremonger, T. L.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Fell, A. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bidgood, J. C. Finlay, Graeme Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Fisher, Nigel Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Bishop, F. p. Fort, R. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Black, C. W. Foster, John Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Body, R. F. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Boothby, Sir Robert Freeth, D. K. Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Bossom, Sir Alfred George, J. C. (Pollok) Joseph, Sir Keith
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Gibson-Watt, D. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Glover, D. Kaberry, D.
Boyle, Sir Edward Godber, J. B. Keegan, D.
Braine, B. R. Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Gough, C. F. H. Kerr, H. W.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Gower, H. R. Kershaw, J. A.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Graham, Sir Fergus Kimball, M.
Brooman-White, R. C. Grant, W. (Woodside) Kirk, P. M.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Lagden, G. W.
Bryan, P. Green, A. Lambert, Hon. G.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Gresham Cooke, R. Lambton, Viscount
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Grimond, J. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Burden, F. F. A. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Langford-Holt, J. A.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Leather, E. H. C.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden) Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Leavey, J. A.
Campbell, Sir David Gurden, Harold Leburn, W. G.
Carr, Robert Hall, John (Wycombe) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Cary, Sir Robert Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Channon, H. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Chichester-Clark, R. Harris, Reader (Heston) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Linstead, Sir H. N.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Llewellyn, D. T.
Cole, Norman Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (SuttonColdfield)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hay, John Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Longden, Gilbert
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Crouch, R. F. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) McAdden, S. J.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount McCallum, Major Sir Duncan
Cunningham, Knox Macdonald, Sir Peter
Currie, G. B. H.
Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Osborne, C. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
McKibbin, A. J. Page, R. G. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Partridge, E. Storey, S.
McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Peyton, J. W. W. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Pickthorn, K. W. M. Studholme, Sir Henry
Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Pitman, I. J. Summers, Sir Spencer
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Pitt, Miss E. M. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfie'd, W.) Pott, H. P. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Powell, J. Enoch Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Price, David (Eastleigh) Teeling, W.
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Macpherson, Nail (Dumfries) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Maddan, Martin Profumo, J. D. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Raikes, Sir Victor Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Ramsden, J. E. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Rawlinson, Peter Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Markham, Major Sir Frank Redmayne, M. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Rees-Davies, W. R Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Marples, A. E. Remnant, Hon. P. Turner, H. F. L.
Marshall, Douglas Renton, D. L. M. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Maude, Angus Ridsdale, J. E. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Rippon, A. G. F. Vane, W. M. F.
Mawby, R. L. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Robertson, Sir David Vickers, Miss J. H.
Medlicott, Sir Frank Robson-Brown, W. Vosper, D. F.
Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wade, D. W.
Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Roper, Sir Harold Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Moore, Sir Thomas Russell, R. S. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Wall, Major Patrick
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Nabarro, G. D. N. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Nairn, D. L. S. Sharples, R. C. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Neave, Airey Shepherd, William Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Nicholls, Harmar Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Nicolson, N.(B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Soames, Capt. C. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Nugent, G. R. H. Spearman, Sir Alexander Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony Speir, R. M. Wood, Hon. R.
Oakshott, H. D. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Woollam, John Victor
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'g'tn, S.)
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Orr, Capt. L, P. S. Stevens, Geoffrey TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Mr. Heath and
Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.
Ainsley, J. W. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Grey, C. F.
Albu, A. H. Cronin, J. D. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Crossman, R. H. S. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Cullen, Mrs. A. Griffiths, William (Exchange)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Daines, P. Hale, Leslie
Anderson, Frank Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Awbery, S. S. Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hamilton, W. W.
Bacon, Miss Alice Davies, Harold (Leek) Hannan, W.
Baird, J. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Deer, G. Hastings, S.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) de Freitas, Geoffrey Hayman, F. H.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Delargy, H. J. Healey, Denis
Benson, G. Dodds, N. N. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)
Beswick, F. Donnelly, D. L. Herbison, Miss M.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Hewitson, Capt. M.
Blackburn, F. Dye, S. Hobson, C. R.
Blenkinsop, A. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Holman, P.
Blyton, W. R. Edelman, M. Holmes, Horace
Boardman, H. Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Houghton, Douglas
Boyd, T. C. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)
Brockway, A. F. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Howell, Denis (All Saints)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Hubbard, T. F.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Burke, W. A. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Fernyhough, E. Hunter, A. E.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Fienburgh, W. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Finch, H. J. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Callaghan, L. J. Fletcher, Eric Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Forman, J. C. Irving, S. (Dartford)
Champion, A. J. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Chapman, W. D. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Janner, B.
Chetwynd, G. R. Gibson, C. W. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Clunie, J. Gooch, E. G. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn&St. Pncs, S.)
Coldrick, W. Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Greenwood, Anthony Johnson, James (Rugby)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Cove, W. G.
Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Orbach, M. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)
Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Oswald, T. Stones, W. (Consett)
Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Owen, W. J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Padley, W. E. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Paget, R. T. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Kenyon, C. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Swingler, S. D.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Palmer, A. M. F. Sylvester, G. O.
King, Dr. H. M. Parker, J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Lawson, G. M. Parkin, B, T. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Paton, John Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Lee, Miss jennie (Cannock) Peart, T. F. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Plummer, Sir Leslie Thornton, E.
Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Popplewell, E. Timmons, J.
Lewis, Arthur Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Tomney, F.
Lindgren, G. S. Probert, A. R. Turner-Samuels, M.
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Proctor, W. T. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Logan, D. G. Pryde, D. J. Usborne, H. C.
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pursey, Cmdr. H. Viant, S. P.
MacColl, J. E. Randall, H. E. Warbey, W. N.
McGhee, H. G. Rankin, John Watkins, T. E.
McInnes, J. Redhead, E. C. Weitzman, D.
McKay, John (Wallsend) Reeves, J. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
McLeavy, Frank Reid, William Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Robens, Rt. Hon. A. West, D. G.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wheeldon, W. E.
Mahon, Simon Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Mann, Mrs. Jean Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Wigg, George
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Ross, William Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Mason, Roy Royle, C. Wilkins, W. A.
Mayhew, C. P. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley Willey, Frederick
Mellish, R. J. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Williams, David (Neath)
Messer, Sir F. Short, E. W. Williams, Rev Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Mitchison, G. R. Shurmer, P. L. E. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Monslow, W. Silverman, Julius (Aston) Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Moody, A. S. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Mort, D. L. Skeffington, A. M. Winterbottom, Richard
Moss, R. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Moyle, A. Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Woof, R. E.
Mulley, F. W. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Snow, J. W. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Sorensen, R. W. Zilllacus, K.
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Sparks, J. A.
O'Brien, Sir Thomas Steele, T. TELLERS FOR THE NOES :
Oliver, G. H. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.
Oram, A. E.

Main Question put : —

The House divided : Ayes 319, Noes 248.

Division No. 279.] AYES [10.10 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Deedes, W. F.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Digby, Simon Wingfield
Alport, C. J. M. Brooman-White, R. C. Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Bryan, P. du Cann, E. D. L.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)
Arbuthnot, John Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
Armstrong, C. W. Burden, F. F. A. Duthie, W. S.
Ashton, H. Butcher, Sir Herbert Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David
Astor, Hon. J. J. Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwick&L'm'n)
Atkins, H. E. Campbell, Sir David Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Carr, Robert Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.
Baldwin, A. E. Cary, Sir Robert Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Barber, Anthony Channon, H. Errington, Sir Eric
Barlow, Sir John Chichester-Clark, R. Erroll, F. J.
Barter, John Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Farey-Jones, F. W.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Fell, A.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Cole, Norman Finlay, Graeme
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Fisher, Nigel
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Cooper, A. E. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Cooper-Key, E. M. Fort, R.
Bidgood, J. C. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Foster, John
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Corfield, Capt. F. V. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Freeth, D. K.
Bishop, F. P. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. George, J. C (Pollok)
Black, C. W. Crouch, R. F. Gibson-Watt, D.
Body, R. F. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Glover, D.
Boothby, Sir Robert Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Godber, J. B.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Cunningham, Knox Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Currie, G, B. H. Gough, C. F. H.
Boyle, Sir Edward Dance, J. C. G. Cower, H. R.
Braine, B. R. Davidson, Viscountess Graham, Sir Fergus
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Grant, W. (Woodside)
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Linstead, Sir H. N. Rawlinson, Peter
Green, A. Llewellyn, D. T. Redmayne, M.
Gresham Cooke, R. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield) Rees-Davies, W. R
Grimond, J. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Remnant, Hon. P.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Renton, D. L. M.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Ridsdale, J. E.
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Longden, Gilbert Rippon, A. G. F.
Gurden, Harold Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Robertson, Sir David
Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Robson-Brown, W.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Harris, Reader (Heston) McAdden, S. J. Roper, Sir Harold
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) McCallum, Major Sir Duncan Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Harrison, Col, J. H. (Eye) Macdonald, Sir Peter Russell, R. S.
Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfd) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) McKibbin, A. J. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Hay, John McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Sharples, R. C.
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Shepherd, William
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfie'd, W.) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Soames, Capt. C.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Speir, R. M.
Hirst, Geoffrey Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Holland-Martin, C. J. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Holt, A. F. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hope, Lord John Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Stevens, Geoffrey
Hornby, R. P. Markham, Major Sir Frank Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Marlowe, A. A. H. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Marples, A. E. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Marshall, Douglas Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Maude, Angus Storey, S.
Howard, John (Test) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Mawby, R. L. Studholme, Sir Henry
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Summers, Sir Spencer
Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Medlicott, Sir Frank Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Hulbert, Sir Norman Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hurd, A. R. Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Hutchison, SrilanClark (E'b'gh, W.) Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Teeling, W.
Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Moore, Sir Thomas Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Hyde, Montgomery Morrison, John (Salisbury) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Iremonger, T, L. Nabarro, G. D. N. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Nairn, D. L. S. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Neave, Airey Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Nicholls, Harmar Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Johnson. Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Nicolson, N.(B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Turner, H. F. L.
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Nugent, G. R. H. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony Vane, W. M. F.
Joseph, Sir Keith Oakshott, H. D. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Vickers, Miss J. H.
Kaberry, D. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Vosper, D. F.
Keegan, D. Orr, Capt. L. P, S. Wade, D. W.
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Kerr, H. W. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Kershaw, J. A. Osborne, C. Walker-Smith, D. C.
Kimball, M. Page, R. G. Wall, Major Patrick
Kirk, P. M. Partridge, E. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Lagden, G. W. Peyton, J. W. W. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Lambert, Hon. G. Pickthorn, K, W. M. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Lambton, Viscount Pitman, I. J. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Pitt, Miss E. M. Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)
Langford-Holt, J. A. Pott, H P. William, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Leather, E. H. C. Powell, J. Enoch Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Leavey, J. A. Price, David (Eastleigh) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Leburn, W. G. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Wood, Hon. R.
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Profumo, J. D. Woollam, John Victor
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon, A. T. Raikes, Sir Victor TELLERS FOR THE AYES :
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Ramsden, J. E. Mr. Heath and
Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.
Ainsley, J. W. Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Brockway, A. F.
Albu, A. H. Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Benson, G. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Beswick, F. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Blackburn, F. Burke, W. A.
Anderson, Frank Blenkinsop, A. Burton, Miss F. E.
Awbery, S. S. Blyton, W, R. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Boardman, H. Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Boyd, T. C. Callaghan, L. J.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Champion, A. J. Irving, S. (Dartford) Randall, H. E.
Chapman, W. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Rankin, John
Chetwynd, G. R. Janner, B. Redhead, E. C.
Clunie, J. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Reeves, J.
Coldrick, W. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn&St. Pncs, S.) Reid, William
Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cove, W. G. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Cronin, J. D. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Ross, William
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Royle, C.
Daines, P. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Kenyon, C. Short, E. W.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) King, Dr. H. M. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Deer, G. Lawson, G. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lee, Frederick (Newton) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Delargy, H. J. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Skeffington, A. M.
Dodds, N. N. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Donnelly, D. L. Lewis, Arthur Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Lindgren, G. S. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Dye, S. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Snow, J. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Logan, D. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Edelman, M. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sparks, J. A.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) MacColl, J. E. Steele, T.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) McGhee, H. G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McInnes, J. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) McKay, John (Wallsend) Stones, W. (Consett)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) McLeavy, Frank Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Fernyhough, E. Mahon, Simon Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Fienburgh, W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Swingler, S. T.
Finch, H. J. Mann, Mrs. Jean Sylvester, C. O.
Fletcher, Eric Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Forman, J. C. Mason, Roy Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mayhew, C. P. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mellish, R. J. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Gibson, C. W. Messer, Sir F. Thornton, E.
Gooch, E. G. Mitchison, G. R. Timmons, J.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Monslow, W. Tomney, F.
Greenwood, Anthony Moody, A. S. Turner-Samuels, M.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Grey, C. F. Mort, D. L. Usborne, H. C.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moss, R. Viant, S. P.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Moyle, A. Warbey, W. N.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mulley, F. W. Watkins, T. E.
Hale, Leslie Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Weitzman, D.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hamilton, W. W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hannan, W. O'Brien, Sir Thomas West, D. G.
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oliver, G. H. Wheeldon, W. E.
Hastings, S. Oram, A. E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hayman, F. H. Orbach, M. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Healey, Denis Oswald, T. Wigg, George
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Owen, W. J. Wilcock, Croup Capt. C. A. B.
Herbison, Miss M. Padley, W. E. Wilkins, W. A.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Paget, R. T. Willey, Frederick
Hobson, C. R. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Williams, David (Neath)
Holman, P. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Holmes, Horace Palmer, A. M. F. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Houghton, Douglas Parker, J. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parkin, B. T. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Howell, Denis (All Saints) Paton, John Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hubbard, T. F. Peart, T. F. Winterbottom, Richard
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Plummer, Sir Leslie Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Popplewell, E. Woof, R. E.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hunter, A. E. Probert, A. R. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Procter, W. T. Zilliacus, K.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pryde, D. J.
Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.

Resolved, That this House condemns the arbitrary action of the Egyptian Government in seizing control of the Suez Canal; endorses the proposals adopted by the 18 Powers at the London Conference which would ensure that an international waterway so essential to the economic life, standard of living and employment of this and other countries would not remain in the unrestricted control of any single Government; welcomes the sustained and continuing efforts of Her Majesty's Government to achieve a peaceful settlement; and affirms its support for the statement of policy made by the Prime Minister to this House on 12th September.

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